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The Gray Nemesis 


Howard Hopkins 



First Printing: September 1992 

First Electronic Printing: December 2004 

Copyright: ©1992, 2004 by Howard Hopkins 

Published by: Golden Perils Press 
2 McKee Dr. 

Old Orchard Beach, ME 04064 

Price: $12.95 

The Gray Nemesis & accompanying articles originally appeared in Golden Perils 
#1 and are copyrighted ©1985, 1992 & 2004 by Howard Hopkins, except for: 

"The Tepperman Avenger" copyright ©1985, 2004 by Howard Hopkins. 

"The DC Avenger Comics" copyright ©1989, 2004 by Howard Hopkins. 

"Broadcasting Benson" copyright ©1988 by Doug Ellis. 

"Addendum Two: Publication Table" ©1984 by Will Murray. 

"Introduction & Revised Nemesis" articles copyright ©1992, 2004 by Howard 


"Covers, Inc." ©2004 by Howard Hopkins 

"What Went Wrong with the Goulart Avengers?" ©2004 by Howard Hopkins 

The Avenger is a copyrighted character of Conde Nast Publications, Inc. No part 
of this publication may be reproduced by any means without express written 
consent of the copyright owners. 


















14 COVERS, INC 109 






All articles by Howard Hopkins except: 
*by Doug Ellis 
**by Will Murray 

Page 4 


In the roaring heart of the crucible, steel is made. In the 
raging flame of personal tragedy, men are sometimes forged 
into something more than human. 

It was so with Dick Benson. He had been a man. After the 
dread loss inflicted on him by an inhuman crime ring, he 
became a machine of vengeance dedicated to the extermination 
of all other crime rings. 

He turned into the person we know now: a figure of ice and 
steel, more pitiless than both; a mechanism of whipcord and 
flame; a symbol of destruction to crooks and killers; a terrible, 
almost impersonal Force, masking chill genius and super- 
normal power behind a face as white and dead as a mask from 
the grave. Only his pale eyes, like ice in a polar dawn, hint at 
the deadliness of the scourge the underworld heedlessly invoked 
against itself when crime's greed turned millionaire adventurer 
Richard Henry Benson into — The Avenger! 

Dedicated to Paul Ernst, reluctant Avenger 

Page 5 



Anyone reaa^ 
ing Mr. Ernst's stories for the past 
decade and a half would swear the guy 
was full of murder, mayhem and mis- 
chief. Actiially, Paul himseif insists 
that for him, adventure exists only in 
typewriter ribbons* This from a fel- 
low who, with hb wife, has been sys- 
tematically murdering as many people 
as possible (in fiction, of course) from 
the time he settled his family on a 
Bucks County, Pa.* farm, ten years ago. 
Paul Ernst first took up %vriting as 
a career in Chicago several years be* 
fore his move to Pennsyivama. If you 

In 1939 Street & Smith was in a horse race with their magazines. Two fiction 
thoroughbreds, Doc Savage and The Shadow, led the pack. Trouble was, these 
stallions far out-distanced the remaining nags such as The Skipper and The 
Whisperer, which were of the same genetic stock but underfed, and the prospects 
of relying on two aging bellwethers were less than glowing. 

What to do, what to do? 

Well, raise a new horse, of course. One 
combining the mighty strength and presence i 
of Doc Savage yet the sleek winning lines 
of The Shadow. 


Or so you'd think. 

First the trainers were called in: Business 
Manager Henry W. Ralston and editor John 
L. Nanovic; second, the jockeys: Lester ^ 

Dent and Walter B. Gibson. After all, you 
needed the best, especially with the Mystery 
mules nipping at your hooves. 

This new horse would have to be 
something special, indeed. 

He was. 

And he wasn't. 

As a character, this new pony, called The 
Avenger, was special, a persona so remote 
and well-developed he sprang from the page 
into pulp history and success in paperback 
years later. What more could they ask for? 

Well, strong sales might be nice. 

The Avenger combined the best traits of 
Doc Savage — a public figure of easy access 
to the oppressed, a headquarters filled with 
magical gadgets, quirky assistants — and 
The Shadow — a grim presence driven by 
base urges, intrigue and suspense in the 
dubious world of politics and big business, 
and a commanding demeanor unchallenged 
by even his crew. It was perfect. 

On a 8ucks County farm, Paul Ernst 
is busy with his fictionoh murders. 

are still dubious that he is sueh a 
placid individual,, listen to what he 
regards as the most exciting thing he 
has done in his whole life, 

* 'Honestly » I've never done anything 
more violent than iimning out of to- 
bacco in a biizzard and having to walk 
id Rill Whitens store, i imle kwav.^1 

Page 6 


Now, they needed a jockey. 

Another problem: the jockey didn't want to get on the horse. 

It took a lot of incentive, $750 a novel and ready-made plots, to convince Paul 
Ernst (1899-1985), a veteran pulpster who had penned many a horror and 
science fiction tale, as well as mystery and adventure, to saddle up. Even then, 
he took the job with great reluctance (Ernst is quoted as saying The Avenger was 
his "poorest writing", but in a later interview he remarked they "must have been 
better than he thought" if so many fans loved them). He had visions of bigger 
and better things — the slicks — ^but Nanovic gave him the cash, the idea and the 
plots, so the choice may not have been that tough after all. 

Despite Paul Ernst's lack of enthusiasm for the character and his joblike 
approach, he was perfect for the job. And despite his claims that The Avenger 
was some of his poorest writing, it was a quantum leap above most other pulp 
series. (It can be argued from a technical standpoint his work surpassed Gibson's, 
whose prose sometimes took on the quality of an archeological dig's slowness, 
and Dent's, whose brilliant characters, until the late 40s, were sometimes 
surrounded by choppy writing and loose plotting. But that is for the literary 
critics to debate. Enough to say. The Avenger under another author is now 
unthinkable.) Paul Ernst breathed life into the series, made it his own, and had it 
come along in 1933 instead of 1939, likely it would have been a huge success. 
At least its chances of survival would have been better. 

But his horse got tangled up in its hooves and fell in 1942, after a paltry 24 
issues. The Avenger faded into musty magazine history — ^until revived to great 
success 30 years later in paperback. The series proved so popular, in fact, that 
after the original 24 tales ran out a new writer, science fiction author Ron 
Goulart, who added 12 tales, was hired to continue the series. Goulart was the 
wrong choice for the stories because he liked the character even less than Ernst, 
and disliked Ernst's writing style. For the second time. The Avenger horse 
stumbled and fell, this time breaking a leg. 

This book presents my history of a character favorite second only to Doc 
Savage. His literary life was way too short and I for one would love to see, or 
write, new adventures starring Richard Henry Benson. I, using Ernst's original 
novels as well as Goulart's new tales (with a heavy emphasis on the originals), 
have tried to be as in-depth and meticulous as possible. This book has been 
corrected, expanded and reset from its original versions in Golden Perils # 1 and 
The Gray Nemesis. Articles have been added on the Tepperman Avenger shorts, 
DC Comics and radio versions, as well as on the covers and the Goulart Avenger 
books. I wish to thank Doug Ellis for his article on the radio Avenger. As of this 
writing, all known scripts have been reprinted in Doug's excellent magazine. 

Page 7 


Pulp Vault. Thanks to Chuck Juzek for titUng my first two articles. Thanks to 
Will Murray for allowing me to reprint his Avenger Publication Table from his 
article "Origin of an Avenger" as published in Nemesis, Inc. #77. Last but 
certainly not least, I am indebted to John P. Gunnison for providing the original 
pulp art from The Avenger Magazine, without which the Avenger Illustrated 
section and interior art throughout this book would not have been possible. 




If millionaire adventurer Richard Henry Benson could turn back time and 
journey back to that fateful day in 1939, many things would have been different. 
Had he that gift, he could have avoided the terrible tragedy that would tear his 
life apart, leaving him nothing more than the shell of a man. Unfortunately, 

I though he is a man blessed with many 
extraordinary powers, he cannot change 

Richard Henry Benson is not a large 
man, no more than five-feet-eight inches 
tall, barely tipping the scales at 160 
pounds. His age is quoted as "somewhere 
in his mid-thirties. Just old enough to have 
a veteran fighter's experience; just young 
enough to have the fire and endurance of 

A fire, after the events of Justice, Inc., 
I replaced with a raging inferno. 

The sun glared from a sapphire sky that 
day at Buffalo Airport. All seemed serene, 
yet something, an electrical snap of foreboding, crackled in the air when Dick 
Benson, his wife and small daughter approached the ticket counter, demanding 
three seats aboard the next flight departing for Montreal. Benson's wife's mother 
lay on her deathbed there, and it is imperative they reach her side at the earliest 
possible moment. As fate would have it, his wife's mother was not the only 
person slated for eternity that day. 

The counterman rudely informs Benson seats are no longer available on the 
small plane scheduled to depart within the hour. But Benson has no choice; they 
simply must get there. Dick's eyes flash like "gray flame" and no one bars his 
way as he forces himself and his family onto the outgoing sky vessel. The plane 
taxis, lifts off the runway with them aboard — into oblivion. 

Things go smoothly at first, though there exists a certain tenseness among the 
other passengers. Still, Benson can't understand why he'd been denied passage. 
Only six other people occupy the seats; three remain empty. Everything's fine. 
On edge, he begins to let go, relax, deciding to wash his hands in the bathroom. 
"Richard had a mania for cleanliness." Although this mysophobic tendency 
would not persist for the remainder of the series, the damage is already done. 

Page 9 



Little does he know that when he bids goodbye to his family for the moment, it 
is for the last time. 

On returning from the bathroom, Benson discovers his wife and daughter 
missing, their seats still warm. A shiver of apprehension courses through him. 
SomQthing feels wrong, though he can't tell what. He asks if they are ill, hoping 
the feeling is unwarranted. 

Then things begin to lock into place, a jigsaw of despair and hopelessness. 
His world flips upside down, beginning a chain of events that would shackle his 
emotions until the day he died. 

None aboard the 
plane will admit to 
having seen his 
family. He must be 
mistaken — or crazy. 
He boarded the plane 
alone at Buffalo. 
Images flash from his 
memory. His mind 
races with crazy, 
bizarre thoughts. 
Something deep inside 
him snaps. He goes 
berserk, drawing a gun 
on the other 
passengers. His nerves 
bum with white fire. A 
scar sears across his 
soul. His torment is 
incredible, beyond the 
limits of human 
endurance. During the 
melee, the pilot clubs 
Benson from behind, 
ending his suffering 
with unconsciousness. 
Benson flitters in and 
out of awareness, 

trapped in a black world of distorted images and unbearable sorrow. He awakens 
briefly when the plane lands, yelling, struggling, praying someone will tell him 


C^mplofQ Dooh-^IUiii^li Hovel by the ajfhor of ' 


One heart-iending dissui^er nioids Dick Beti- 
son inJo an aTonging machinQ of steaL 

Page 10 


it's just all some sort of horrible nightmare. 
The nightmare is only too real. 

Lapsing into blackness again, he remains so for three weeks, awakening in a 
hospital. Somehow, something is different. He has changed, and changed 
incredibly. In effect, Richard Henry Benson never did wake up. Someone — 
something — else did. No longer is he the man who left Buffalo, a man filled with 
hopes and dreams for the future. No, these things are gone, now. Forever. 
In fact, he is barely a man at all. More of a machine, a terrible, almost 

inhuman force, capable only of 
feeling the terror of being alone. 
He is trapped in a world of ice and 
frozen emotion, with nothing to 
live for, everything he ever loved 
torn away from him. A single 
purpose drives his empty 
existence: to find the reason his 
wife and child were snatched from 
him just when he was starting to 
live — and destroy the evil 

Shock has done incredible 
things to him: bleached his hair 
snow white and paralyzed his 
facial muscles so that he can 
manipulate them into any shape he 
chooses. This recompense, little 
though it may be, he will use to 
crush the bastards who turned him 
into some kind of dreadful 
inhuman machine. 

"He had gone into the place a 
I man. He had come out a machine; 
a machine of ice and slow fire; a 
powerful engine geared to only 
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ two things — the recovery of wife 
and child and the destruction of the force that had acted so fantastically against 

In his broken shell was the scourge the underworld would come to fear at the 
mere whisper of his name — The Avenger! 

I'll ti-t (ufncc: ipt*, the tMtUfisTcnalion ^fia iitar[3ing-, 

Page 1 1 



Justice, Inc. describes Richard Henry Benson as being of average height and 
weight — these are probably the only aspects of the man with the steely eyes that 
can be considered at all average. Though of medium build, Benson's musculature 
defies scientific explanation. Ounce for ounce its tensile strength is twice to three 
times that of normal sinew and muscle fiber. A superhuman strength packed into 

a compact frame. He turns this 
incredible power against those 
who seek to oppress the 
innocent, men too clever for the 
sluggish and sometimes 
bumbling ways of the law. 

This strength is nothing if not 
spectacular. In the baffling case 
of 7he Yellow Hoard, wherein a 
murderous band of criminals 
devastate the city with peanut- 
shaped explosives in an effort to 
acquire some clay bricks hiding 
the secret to a fabulous cache of 
Aztec gold Benson hoists a 
stone slab weighing in excess of 
400 pounds as if it were merely 
a manhole cover (equaling The 
Shadow's feat in Xitli, God of 
Fire). Twice in the course of the 
series he brings the giant Smitty 
I to his knees (Justice, Inc. and 
Tuned for Murder). In The Sky 
Walker, while he and Smitty are 
investigating a man they suspect 
I to be of the criminal persuasion, 
Benson an the giant find 

The ilLiTQw wji& a tjfiBUtif oL till II ■; , , . 5trLbL[v_g the P^E^Lri^ 
niMj Hf til* Uaic ef tbe ikulJ, 

themselves trapped in an elevator doomed to crash nine floors below because a 
criminal has severed the steel cable. The Avenger miraculously grips the floor 
sill through a gap in the doors and holds the elevator suspended in midair while 
Smitty takes over. Although catching the sill would be enough to snap off an 
ordinary mortal's fingers, Benson next performs an equally amazing feat. He 

Page 12 


climbs atop the cage and ties the steel cable into a knot, allowing Smitty and an 
unconscious elevator operator to reach safety. (Doc Savage underwent a similar 
episode in Dust of Death, but in that case a natural air cushion halted the 
plunge.) This fantastic, though improbable feat is accomplished just in the nick 
of time, as the cable untangles and the cage plunges nine floors, splintering into 
so much kindling at the shaft bottom. Later in the tale, when Josh has to return to 
that same building, Benson dryly remarks that he should take the stairs. 

Other examples of Benson's strength abound throughout the tales. He can 
easily shoulder and carry the 285 pound Smitty. His back muscles are powerful 
enough to shred his coat merely by expanding them. Numerous novels state no 

man alive can break his grip. A 
later novel, Nevlo, proves this 
wrong, however, as the apelike 
beast does manage to snap his 
hold. At the time, Benson's 
hand is thrust through a crevice 
in a rock barricade and the 
beast is blessed with unusual 
strength, so it is excusable. In 
Midnight Murder, the final 
Avenger saga, his grip is so 
strong he is able to grasp a 
locked door knob and twist 
until the mechanism surrenders. 

He is a steel gray bar, cast 
from torment, gifted with 
amazing vigor and ability, as 
well as power. The Avenger's 
speed and coordination also far 
exceed normal limits. It strains 
the eye to keep up with his 
swiftness and catlike 

Pictures of Death shows his 
coordination to be so 
magnificent he is able to grasp 
with his toes a towel that has 
been stuffed down a shower 
drain and pull it free. At the 

Page 13 


time, he and Mac are trapped in an air-tight shower cabinet fiUing with water, so 
this ability comes in quite handy. Mac doesn't think any other Hving person can 
duphcate this feat. 

Benson s movements make the normal man's appear slow and awkward. He is 
chained lightning, liquid flame. 

So well-coordinated and swift are his hands, he snatches a maddened pigeon 
out of mid-flight in The Hate Master. He can cover 100 yards in nine seconds 

flat (fast for 1939). Like 
Doc Savage, his literary 
cousin, he can travel 
through interlaced tree 
tops in the jungle, as well 
as in northern areas (in 
The Frosted Death he 
does this while 
approaching a cabin in the 
Maine woods. Anyone 
living in this area knows 
how difficult this feat 
really is). 

Not only are his 
physical powers amazing, 
but his accomplishments 
in other areas are of equal 
note. They encompass 
every field, science 
through art. In each 
endeavor he is a genius. 

He has mined the arctic 
and Antarctic and 
completed several jobs for 
the French railway in 

North Africa as an 

engineer. In his teens he 
spotted rubber in South America, led native armies in Java, made aerial maps of 
the Congo. In his thirties he mined emeralds in Brazil, panned gold in Alaska, 
found diamonds in Transvaal. He acquired millions through minerals in Peru and 
boasted engineering feats in Siam (Thailand), Arabia, and just about every other 
far corner of the world. 

Justice, Inc. states he made his last half million in an Australian amethyst 

Page 14 


fc'HE-.YELLOfl^' HOAPI> 

venture, though, in his next adventure. The Yellow Hoard, he would acquire 

many millions more. 

His genius flows through every field. He is a top-ranking physician, without 

peer as an Egyptologist and able to decipher Aztec hieroglyphics. A whiz in any 

branch, take your 

Perhaps as a 
chemist he is 
foremost. In The 
Green. Killer he 
quickly develops 
a cure for the 
hideous disease 
transforming men 
into apelike 
creatures. In The 
Black Death he 
comes up with a 
remedy for the 
malady of the 
same name. His 
uncanny ability 
leads to the 
solution of the 
"slow motion 
disease" in Death 
I in Slow Motion, 
saving two of his 
aides affected 
with the virus 
I from certain 

In the curious 
and violent 
exploit of The 
Hate Master, 
Benson finds 
himself baffled 
for the first time 

Page 1 5 


T| YELLOW llOAifLi^ 

in his career. A mysterious red compound turns men and animals into maddened 
demons bent on attacking and destroying anything in sight. When one of his 
aides, Cole Wilson, contracts the sickness, Benson is forced to try a serum that 
may kill Cole rather than cure him. 

He invents new operating techniques and designs many new and useful 
surgical instruments for hospitals. 

He's fluent enough in dozens of languages to speak them without an accent. 
In Death in Slow Motion he knows even the obscure Hungarian dialects of 

He regains 
consciousness fully 
alert, even when it is 
the result of a blow, 
an animal-like ability 
he shares with Doc 
Savage. He possesses 
amazing recuperative 
I powers. 
I Benson's list of 

accomplishments is 
impressive and 
seemingly endless. 
■ He is one of the 
" world's greatest 
experts in 
aerodynamics. He 
has been a pearl 
diver and learned 
techniques enabling 
him to hold his 
breath several 
minutes while under 
water (another trait 
he shares with Doc 
Savage). He can 
bend his thumb into 
his palm and 
compress his fingers 
together to make the 

*1 c(*iild have t(lJ*.a you pritt? ssuiit?, HQ^fflrm!'" 

Page 16 


circumference of his hand no larger than that of his wrist, a feature that comes in 
handy in The Glass Mountain when some locals mistakenly try to hang him for 
murder. He slips out of the bonds to leave behind some very irate and 
embarrassed self-styled lawmen. This ability enables him to slip through 
handcuffs on many occasions. 

He is one of the best judges of men and has friends in all walks of life. 

For a man in his mid-thirties {Midnight Murder places Benson in his twenties, 
so he was apparently regressing in age as the series progressed), these 

are left to wonder 
Avenger's abilities 
not have the same 
Savage and was 
experienced than 

In his spare 
art connoisseur, 
leads a man to try 
Nellie a copy of 
Dock" in the 
Pictures of Death. 
man tumbles from 
window to his 
Benson can view 
manages to acquire 
later on, causing all 
problems for 
bad guys. 

He also loves to 

are quite 

Readers, however, 
just where The 

came from. He did 

upbringing as Doc 
years less 
The Shadow, 
time, Benson is an 
This love of art 
to sell Smitty and 
Gauguin's "The 
opening events of 
Unfortunately, the 
a fourth story 
death before 
the painting. He 
the piece anyway 
manner of 
himself and the 

sculpt. He has 
work in the 

several pieces of 

Metropolitan Museum. He spends most of his leisure hours at this hobby. (When 
does he get any?) Like Doc Savage, he is a composer of rare merit. 

As a pilot he rivals Doc and The Shadow. Even so, his plane (and car) bill 
alone would be enough to halt his crime-busting career if he weren't hugely 
wealthy. One novel states he has a hanger at La Guardia with at least half a 
dozen planes. Another later novel brings the count up to an even dozen. 

As stated, in The Yellow Hoard Benson adds to his already vast wealth. 

Page 1 7 


furnishing enough capital to support his band indefinitely in their crime-busting 
campaign. While hunting the vicious murderers of Professor Gray, following a 
trail of clay bricks and an emerald belt, he becomes heir, through Nellie, to a 
hoard of Aztec gold, much the way Doc Savage did in his adventure. The Man of 
Bronze. It is donated to Justice & Co. (by the time of Stockholders in Death the 
name of the group is changed to the more familiar one of Justice, Inc.) by Nellie 
to advance their fight against the underworld. 

In this saga Benson is starting to receive recognition from the authorities. By 

the time of The DeviVs 
Horns, not a police 
chief in the country 
doesn't know him on 
sight. Support is given 
handily, and in the 
aforementioned novel 

1^ ^A^^^ *t: * ^Wf\kr ** -y *' " he is even invited by 
"JiJl^^K^ A I M^ V ^^^ ^^^ ^^ Ashton City 

f^^^^^Qe ^w%r ^^ clean the streets of 

^K^^^^^^^x ^ ' ^ an evil crime syndicate, 

^HHHj^^^^Hl^. ''^'^ / reminiscent of The 

MDnB^^^^Hfiw^ ^'jts^i Shadow's Gangdom's 

^jjB^^^^^^^^Mj^^ «' J^EflP 1^ ^^^^' Midnight 

^^^^^^^^^^^^Hra^^^^ ^^UiW^r^% Murder states The 
^^^^^^^^^^^^B^H^Ab^SkUV^M Avenger an honorary 
J^^^^^^^^^^^^^HHS^fl^Bflyi member of the New 

^^. ^VHb^^^^^H^^^IHI^^^SU^i l^^P^^^^^^' ^ captain, 

^M^ ^^SH^^^^^^^^^^^BIm^^^ The Flame Breathers 

HHET^-^ , ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^KS mentions he an 
BF^ - ^ ^^^ ^ ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^H^H honorary aide to the 

Secret Service. 
Not that The 
Avenger is totally with 
impunity where the 

authorities are 

concerned. In the 
mysterious and eerie House of Death, he is charged with murder and seemingly 
tossed into the slammer. Unbeknownst to the police, who exhibit their usual pulp 
efficiency, Benson has switched places with an actor friend, enabling The 
Avenger to trail the real culprit secretly. 

Page 18 


3 THE SKY walker! 




In Nevlo Benson is wanted for extortion. 

The government actually makes every effort to exclude him from the case of 
The Man From Atlantis. In fact. Agent Don Early considers The Avenger more 
of a competition than a help in most post Midnight Murder adventures. Still, 
when compared to the episodes Doc Savage and The Shadow had with the law, 
Benson s run-ins are trivial (if you can call being charged with murder trivial). 
Unlike his bronze counterpart, Benson sports no code against toting weapons. 

He carries two: a small gun 
affectionately called "Mike" 
,nd a needle-sharp throwing 
ife dubbed "Ike." 
Mike, the gun, resembles a 
piece of thin blue tubing, 
barrel almost as long as that of 
a target pistol. Its small size 
holds only four .22 caliber 
bullets and can easily be 
secreted in a holster strapped 
to Benson's right calf. In 
addition, it is equipped with a 
small silencer. Benson uses the 
tiny "peashooter" to "crease" 
the skulls of criminals, causing 
unconsciousness instead of 
killing them. He rarely misses, 
but it does happen. For the 
most part, these small slips 
can be forgiven. In The Green 
Killer he misses a monkey 
man, but the target is moving 
and thirty yards away. In 
Three Cold Crowns he makes 
an error in judgment that costs 
a criminal a piece of his ear. 

Most of the time he is 
extremely accurate with his 
eighth-of-an-inch skims. In The Frosted Death he creases a man, twice, from an 
elevated position and at a distance of one-hundred yards. 

To his left calf he straps Ike. The knife is eight inches long, sharp as a razor, 

Page 19 


and double-edged, with a reinforcing spine. The handle is hollow to aid in 
throwing. With it he can hit a fly speck at fifty feet. In Justice, Inc. he snaps a 
button off Mac's coat when the latter is curious as to how effective such a "wee 
weapon" could be. He uses both weapons expertly with either hand. Throughout 

the course of the 
series they save 
his life many 
times over and he 
calls them "true 

The only other 
weapon, besides 
his plentiful 
gadgets, he ever 
carries is a small 
spring gun 
capable of 
ejecting gas 
pellets. In The 
Black Death his 
aide. Cole 
Wilson, totes a 
similar weapon. 
Benson never 
kills with these 
weapons (with the 
exception of the 
sudden departure 
from this code in 
Three Gold 
Crowns, where he 
deliberately offs a 
crook with Mike 
by shooting him 
in the neck). 
Unlike Doc, who suddenly adopts his no-life-taking policy after a few issues of 
bitter violence. The Avenger series provides us with a reason for Benson 's 
reluctance to kill: "In his extreme youth, he had been forced to kill a man. The 
memory of it still bit and cut." Like Doc's comrades, however. The Avenger's 
aides don't mind an occasional slip, especially the giant Smitty. 

Page 20 


Benson's skill with other weapons is just as remarkable as that with Mike and 

In Justice, Inc. he knocks out a crook by hurling an axe and beaming the 
ruffian with the handle end. Lucky for the crook he wasn't dealing with The 

If Benson's bitter memories prevent him from directly killing a criminal, they 
certainly don't hinder him from letting them set themselves up to die in their own 

This trick he adopts from Doc Savage and carries to new heights. In the very 
first of The Gray Nemesis' adventures, he maneuvers the criminals into a 
position wherein they seal their own doom, setting the tone for the rest of the 

In The Yellow Hoard 
criminals trying to blow up a 
cliff by planting explosives in a 
rock crevice to bring tons of 
stone down upon The Avenger 
and his gang, only succeed in 
burying themselves. 

In The Frosted Death the bad 
guys intend to infect the Justice 
members with the strangling 
gray mold, thereby sealing their 
own fate with the deadly disease. 

In The Glass Mountain the 
Pawnee Rain God seeks to 
annihilate The Avenger by 
drowning him in a cave flooding 
with water, but the criminals are 
the ones who end up more than 
just wet behind the ears. 

In The Sky Walker criminals 
are destroyed by the military 
when the invisible plane they are 
flying suddenly becomes visible. 
The Avenger has poured 
aviation gasoline into the 
compound that renders planes 
transparent. Well, he warned 

Page 21 



In novel after novel The Avenger's genius saves the police the trouble of dealing 

with some master criminal, as well as saving the court system lots of time and 


A cvnijpl4ta bcQ'Ic-lciislli novel 

rtiAPTER I, 

paperwork. If the no-goods choose to bring harm to him and his aides, they make 
their own fate. Here is a system Doc would readily condone, though perhaps The 
Shadow or The Spider would disagree. They preferred the direct approach — 
putting as many holes as possible into a particular foe. 

Page 22 


The Devil's Horns 
I presents us with a 
glimpse into the 
psychology of the man 
with the glacial eyes. 
This adventure states 
I that Benson is totally 
without fear. He 
doesn't care if he dies. 
In fact; he'd welcome 
it. "He wanted to die. 
Fate, with proverbial 
perversity, was 
keeping him alive." 

It is The Avenger's 
suicidal habit to 
I simply walk right into 
traps instead of 
avoiding them. There 
is always something to 
be learned from traps, 
a new bit of 
information, a small 
piece of the puzzle. If 
he were killed, as 
someday he knew fate 
would loosen its ironic 
grip and a knife or 
bullet would find his 
heart, then he would be free. "The sooner he died, the sooner he would be with 
his wife and daughter again." (This obviously gives Benson some sort of 
spiritual side, though such believes are never directly dealt with in the series,) 

In the fast-paced Stockholders in Death he walks right into a nest of 
criminals, twice, only to waltz right back out again. In a number of exploits he 
comes to the very brink of death only to cheat the Grim Reaper of his catch at 
the last possible moment. 

During the events of The Yellow Hoard, while exploring an underground cave 
a rock ledge collapses and sends him plummeting into a subterranean river many 
feet below. He nearly drowns, spared only because it is the dry season and the 

Page 23 


river is not as bloated as it normally would be. 

House of Death finds Benson, Mac and Smitty trapped in a spooky old house 
on an island off the coast of Maine. They manage to fall through a trapdoor in 
the floor into a room filling with rats (rooms filling with rats seems to be an 
Ernst favorite as he uses the same device on Mac and Nellie in The Hate 
Master). They barely survive this episode, as soon after they are trapped in 
another room, this one with a descending ceiling that threatens to squash them 
like so many grapes. 

To say Benson is totally without fear may be a slight exaggeration, however. 
For his own life he cares little. But when harm threatens one of his trusted aides, 
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^n he fears mightily. Numerous 


times throughout the series 
he is in turmoil, awaiting the 
answer he knows must 
someday come: one of his 
friends has made a mistake, 
a mistake that has cost 
him — or her — his life. 

Fortunately, that answer 
never comes. 

Although Richard Henry 
Benson is a machine of 
justice, a thing of revenge, 
he never seems entirely 
comfortable with his name 
tag. The Avenger. Many 
sagas state he never calls 
himself by this name (this is 
contradicted in House of 
Death, as at one point in the 
novel he says "The Avenger 
never takes a life." This 
seems to be the only instance 
it occurs, so perhaps Ernst 
slipped while recounting the 
Gray Fox's words, or the 
person doing the note taking, 
usually Nellie or Smitty, was 
in error on this account). 

Normally, he introduces 

Page 24 


himself as Richard 
Benson. However, in 
the mysterious case of 
The Sky Walker he 
oddly gives his name, 
to Josh, as Henry 

Unlike Doc Savage, 
Benson never seems to 
have the same 
problems (if you could 
call it a problem) with 
members of the fair 
sex. Many of the 
beauties in the series 
are inclined to become 
attracted to The 
Avenger, but with one 
gaze into those remote 
glacial eyes, one 
glimpse into a world of 
hopelessness, pain and 
personal tragedy, they 
realize it is useless to 
pursue any sort of 
romantic endeavor. 

The only romantic 
inference, save that towards his wife, hinted at is in The Blood Countess by Ron 
Goulart (many Avenger fans don't consider these "modem" tales legitimate 
entries in the series). 

In this adventure, Benson journeys to south America to see an old flame he 
dated in his college days, who had recently been smuggled out of occupied 
Europe. On arrival, he learns his past love is suspected of having committed a 
number of grisly murders reported to be the work of a vampire. The Avenger 
spends a good part of this novel in a clammy underground prison, being kept 
unconscious with drugs by the Nazis. 

Benson does rebound to clear Elizabeth Bentin of being one of the undead, 
but the girl doesn't exactly get the cowboy in this case. Fortunately, dashing Cole 

Page 25 


Wilson is around to help with the mop up, else Benson might have been forced 
to call upon Monk May fair to do the honors. 

When Benson undergoes the shock transforming him into the deadly crime- 
fighting machine known as The Avenger, his features change remarkably. First, 
his jet black hair bleaches a snowy white, making him appear much older than he 
actually is; second, his facial muscles become paralyzed, unable to move of their 
own volition. His face looks like a mask or something that might have been dug 
up out of a cemetery. This trait has its advantages, as he discovers he is able to 

mold his face into 
any shape he 
chooses. Even the 
imprints of crooks' 
fists when they hit 
him are retained in 
his putty-like 
features ( a 
occurrence that 
gives more than one 
unsavory individual 

He is dubbed 
"the man of a 
thousand faces," 
sharing this title 
with Secret Agent 
X, a master of 

In the first two 
novels he uses 
whatever is handy 
to pull off a 
disguise. In The 
Yellow Hoard he 
adapts tree bark 
into a reddish paste 
J so he can make up 

Page 26 


as an Indian and infiltrate 


a criminal gang. 

In succeeding 
adventures he carries a 
makeup case with him, 
as Doc sometimes did, 
almost everywhere. The 
DeviVs Horns contains 
the first description of 
the case: it is small and 
extremely compact. The 
top holds several dozen 
tissue-thin, semi- 
spherical cups of glass 
that can fit over the 
eyeball to change its hue. 
There are rows of glasses 
in various shades and 
styles. Two trays of wigs 
and everything else an 
experienced make-up 
artist would carry 
complete the case. A tiny 
mirror on the inside of 
the lid furnishes 
feedback as The Avenger 
prepares his disguise. 

In addition, there are 
lifts that slide into his 
shoes to alter his height, 
and all his suits have 
inflatable rubber bladders 
to increase his stature. He owns closets full of suits in every style and shade. 

After the startling events of Murder on Wheels return the use of his facial 
muscles, he uses plastics to change his now mobile face. Later, by the time of 
The Wilder Curse, he begins injecting a drug into his facial muscles to 
temporarily return them to their paralyzed state. 

Perhaps the most outstanding feature associated with The Avenger is his eyes. 
They are like ice in a polar dawn, chips of stainless steel, diamonds glittering 

Page 27 


under a pale arctic moon. They are a pale gray, almost colorless, enough to give 
anyone falling under their basilisk gaze a case of the shivers. Even his aides are 
not immune to their frosty chill. 

Like Doc's flake-gold eyes, Benson's glinting icy orbs possess the power to 
hypnotize. In The Blood Ring he mesmerizes a girl holding him and Smitty at 
gunpoint, while she is in an agitated state. In Stockholders in Death and at least 
one other novel, he hypnotizes a bank guard to gain entrance into the bank after- 
hours (for a good reason, of course). 

In The Green Killer Benson hypnotizes a German officer into giving him two 
planes so he can fly into the Brazilian jungle in search of a lost friend. 

During the 
events of River of 
Ice, The Avenger 
has his first, and 
probably only, 
failure with altered 
though in this case it 
can be forgiven as 
the girl he is trying 
to mesmerize is 
already under the 
spell of another. 
Criminals have 
inserted a piece of 
sharp steel into her 
brain, at the base of 
her skull, to turn her 
into an automaton . 
By the end of the 
saga. The Avenger 
succeeds in 
removing the object 
and restores her 

After, and 
during, the near- 
fatal episode of 
Murder on Wheels, 

Page 28 


The Avenger undergoes a second shock that marks a startling turnabout in his 
career and probably sounds the death knell for the series. 

Benson finds himself drawn to Michigan to investigate the disappearance of a 
new "supercar." Three-quarters of the way into the novel, he confronts the 
deadliest challenge of his career. Having disguised himself as a worker at the 
Man* Plant, where the supercar is being produced and whom is having more than 
its share of problems with sabotage, Benson conducts an investigation after 
hours, hoping to find a clue leading to the perpetrators. He senses he is not alone 
in the darkened factory. Suddenly, someone springs upon him, someone 
strong, nearly 
equal in power to 
The Avenger 
himself (this 
person later | 

becomes an 
aide). For the 
first time in his 
exploits , he is 
outwitted, maybe 
a bit too easily, it 
seems. Tricked I 
into a ray 
tempering ' 

responsible for 
giving the metal 
of the supercar 
its incredible 
strength, he is 
trapped. A low 
seemingly from ' 
within his head, 
ululates through 
the interior as the 
current is 
switched on. 


A man vfaiksd in tito sley, brJIir^b^ d'flath 

Page 29 


"Every atom of his body was bursting like a tiny bomb! He was simply an inert 
mass of torment!" His muscles scream with pain, jerk with spasm. He lapses into 

The next morning he awakens sprawled on a pile of pipe. Whoever turned on 
the power when he tricked The Avenger into the ray contraption had been 
merciful. Another minute more of the sizzling ray bombardment and the world 

Tfl* jtjji] y*l}^ hcflJS^ri yn^ oii€e. as The 

CHAFTitK li. 


Page 30 



would have been less one Richard Henry Benson. When the morning crew 
discovers him, they think he is a new worker, not the man whose place he had 

taken when he 
infiltrated the plant 
the previous day. 
Something is 
wrong. But what? 

When he returns 
to his temporary 
headquarters, his 
aides are astounded. 
For his glacial 
features now appear 
entirely normal. "It 
was an unbelievable 
thing. His face had 
expression." No 
longer is he in the 
disguise of the plant 
worker, because 
where his frozen 
claylike muscles 
had once held 
whatever shape he 
prodded them into 
was now feeling, 
muscle. "Now, after 
a second horrible 
shock to his nervous 
I system, his face was 
as it had been nearly 
two years ago." 
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ . His face isn't the 

only thing changed. 
In place of his cap of snow-white hair is complete baldness! When his hair 
grows back, by the beginning of the next novel, it comes in its original color, jet 

Most changes are cosmetic, however. While he is now capable of expressing 

fie J^pjl m^t i ^yin^ drdle f>i the tbfee ^ca snd th^ tr-ec, Tb^ fr^^ t^d Jfi^lLC^ 
BVi likt * v'Aj'Ph sma^ktfd tMf gas frinn ite THaL^htt^s hibd juSi ^s i't b€iifh&d ££mf. 

Page 31 



emotion, he rarely 
does. His 

countenance remains 
a motionless mask. 
His soul still retains 
the scars. The only 
feeling he permits is 
one of vengeance. 

He takes to 
wearing black or 
dark suits in further 
adventures, instead 
of gray ones. Where 
he was once the 
Gray Fox, he is now 
a black panther (this 
title is also bestowed 
upon Josh, the black 
member of the 
group). A few times 
in succeeding novels 
editors slip and he is 
still called a gray 
fox, owing to 
revisions on Before- 
Change inventory 

All else stays the 
same: he remains a 
machine; a cold, icy 
mechanism of 
retribution dedicated 

to the destruction of crime and those who seek to impose their fiendish ways 
upon the innocent. Those unable to fend off an onslaught from some criminal 
organization too powerful for the police. 

Benson develops an espionage system unparalleled in efficiency (except 
possibly by Doc or The Shadow's), which ranges from clerks in rental agencies, 
men in stores, boys at newsstands, subway workers, to a host of people 
following trades that expose them to every aspect of public life. Unlike Doc 
Savage, The Avenger doesn't have a criminal-curing institution from which to 

Page 32 


recruit, so he must hire off the street. Or perhaps Doc sends him graduates; he 
had enough of them and the war took most able-bodied men. 

Benson, despite the second shock, remains the relentless righter of wrongs, a 
scourge to the lawless. An icy indifferent machine whose life still contains 
nothing to live for, no promise, no future, no love. He stands alone, a cold 

Page 33 



n^ Av^figer cheeH dcofA wfttle tr^cAciflSf f^own a inirr^fej-ouj fdjrg. 
br KEIftTETH ROB ESQ IT, FamQi» Cr^cuqr t^ '^Pi,^ SarB^fi.- 

impersonal force; something less than human, yet, somehow, something more. 
One desire rages inside him: making those and their ilk who had taken so much 
from him pay and pay and pay. Until one day when a supercriminal emerged too 
powerful even for him. Then, finally, his suffering would end. 

Perhaps, over time, some of this desire dissipated because SiftQr Midnight 
Murder he no longer seems to feel the same raw bum, the same dreadful fire. A 
raging inferno has guttered, flaring occasionally but with less intensity. The 
flame quivers, shivers, at times almost blinking out. He becomes more human as 

Page 34 


the veil on insanity slowly lifts. He shows up at the hospital with toys when 
Rosabel delivers twins. Perhaps he remembers another time, another life, the 
birth of his beloved daughter. This is surely not the machine. No, more the 
Richard Henry Benson that existed before the awful shock that imprisoned his 

The Avenger didn't have a long career and since nobody seems to know what 
happened to him after the exploit of Demon Island, we can only speculate as to 
his end. Nothing is heard from him beyond 1943. Perhaps some genius of crime 
finally caught up to him. The last seen of him is when he receives a letter from 
an unknown source, stating his wife and daughter may still be alive. (This was to 

be a trick of 
the Iron Skull 
according to 
Ron Goulart, 
who dropped 
the hint in an 
effort to 
Warner into 
the series.) 
Just what 
became of 
Benson is 
I unknown. His 
' aides vanish 
Maybe the 
Tlw jflvBr^er iortPei mstfern crlA« wif fe Nie geeJus of prefc^jfoi^c jtian. Iron Skull 

, , „ „ , hastened his 

doom. Maybe 
hT KENIIETB! BttBESDNp Foitwwi Cf*at*^ or'D« SovflpP* a third shock, 

one of finding 
CHAPTER L out his wife 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^J and daughter 

Page 35 


weren't really alive, was too much and he called it quits. Or maybe facing his 
pain, instead of harboring it, set him free and there was no longer a need to exact 

Or perhaps, in unwritten tales, Benson and his aides battled again and again, 
rd like to think so. 

Whatever the case, Richard Henry Benson was one of the greatest crime- 
fighters of the pulp era. And one of the most tragic. 


Smrtiy .?(flrfj ft tiff mitn who I^iffted Nk^ M IfO-WIJ*. Ti* nt*i IJh^di. 
tkt clu^ hish .nBd 9a his lips vms a !twiBftri4ss sriJt «-/ MaiicijtMti^ ■ 

Page 36 



Algernon Heathcote Smith makes his first appearance as a chauffer, working 
for Mister Arnold Leon in the second hsilf of Justice, Inc. Looking slow and dull- 
witted, he is intently browsing 


through a textbook titled 
"Radioactive Phenomenon" while 
awaiting his employer to finish his 
business at the home of millionaire 
John Lansing. 

He boasts gigantic proportions: six 
feet nine inches from the toes up, 
carrying a massive 285 pounds of 
rock-hard muscle and gristle. His 
chest is so large, 53 inches cold, his 
arms won't hang straight at his sides. 
He wears a size nineteen collar and 
size fifteen shoes (which still doesn't 
put him in competition with fellow 
aides, Mac and Josh). With china- 
blue eyes and a gentle moon face, he 
J looks as harmless as he is big. 
Benson discovers just how 
harmless he is when investigating the Lansing home and is set upon by the 
"gentle giant." 

Smitty mistakes The Avenger for a police officer, after a kidnapping occurs at 
the Lansing estate. A few years back, Smitty had been framed for stealing 
platinum while working on a new invention called television and had spent time, 
a year to be exact, in the slammer for the crime. In his mind, there was no way 
this little average-sized man was going to take him back to jail. If he went this 
time, he knew it would be for good. 

Smitty and Benson both get the shock of their lives. The little average-sized 
man brings the giant to his knees — the only man ever to do so — and The 
Avenger picks up a new aide. 

Algernon Heathcote Smith, Smitty if you cared for the present arrangement of 
your features, graduated Mass. Tech. as an electrical engineer extraordinaire. His 
many gadget contributions throughout the series are remarkable. Everything 

Page 37 


from the tiny belt radios the group is equipped with to a new and superior type of 
television (no doubt this particular invention makes him the proudest, 
considering his previous conviction). He spends countless hours tinkering with 
new and helpful gadgets. 

In The Flame Breathers he is working on a television-radio combination that 


BtnJOIl'i ri^'ht hand get h^ld o-f Aj«:i Umit^L' th« H'l^t'i 
( LeK ar7iL<pit; in a. fj-^LLcc grip. 

Page 38 


fits into a box the size of a cigar case. In a later novel, Cole remarks the wave of 
the future is towards smaller and more compact things (to which he adds Smitty 
will be in trouble unless he finds a way to shrink himself). Cole is half right: 
electronic devices got smaller but people got taller. 

According to 
Nevlo he is 
tinkering with a 
new kind of 
heating element 
that will take a 
500 percent 
without burning 

For all his 
vast size, Smitty 
is almost as 
agile as The 
Avenger. Many 
a villain is 
amazed at the 
speed at which 
this slow- 
looking giant 
can navigate. 
Only one 
incident appears 
contrary to this 
statement in the 
entire series. In 
7he Hate Master 
Smitty's ankles 
are chewed to 
pieces by 
guinea pigs 
because he is 
not as agile as 
an ordinary girl 

Smitty grabbed the man who &ln^|^ea Nslly a^id (^Escd his 
fcCriL^glin^ b^dy ilmogt at arm a J^glli ^vtr bis Ji^i.- 

Page 39 


trapped in the room with him. 

In the remaining novels, however, he is saved often by his coordinated 

Like Andrew Blodgett Mayfair and Theodore Marley Brooks, Smitty carries 
on a running feud with another member of the group — the sandy-haired 
Scotsman, Fergus MacMurdie. Mac is probably the only person who can call 
Smitty by his real name and survive to tell about it. But even Mac knows the 
gianf s limits. They r^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ 

habitually down each 
other's experiments and 
endeavors in their 
respective fields. And if 
Mac isn't around to tease 
the giant, Nellie usually 

While Smitty's 
personality is normally 
placid, two things can 
arouse the moon- faced 
giant into an enraged bull 
elephant: mention of his 
true name and harm 
threatening the 
diminutive Nellie Gray. 
When danger befalls the 
tiny blonde, he turns into 
a dwarfed King Kong, a 
human tank, charging 
through doors and 
gangsters, bowling them 
over like tenpins. 

In The Sky Walker 
Smitty can't stand to see 
Nellie knocked around by 
mobsters and goes 
berserk, cracking their 
heads together. At least 
one of the ruffians will 


Page 40 


never bother anyone 

In The Happy Killers 
Smitty saves Nellie from 
being run over by a 
carload of criminals, only 
to have the tiny blonde 
yell at him while he is 
untying her because he 
let the criminals escape. 
All in good fun, though. 

Generally, he only 
manages to get himself, 
and others, into trouble 
when he risks his life for 
the lovely Miss Gray. He 
charges in wildly, paying 
little heed to surprise or 
stealth. His only thought: 
rescue the love of his 
life. Nothing else matters 
and nothing stands in his 

In early tales it's 
suspected, though they 
continuously rib each 
other, that this lumbering 
giant cares much for the 
dainty Nellie Gray. By 
the time of The Devil's 
Horns it's a fact. Why 
else would he fume 

whenever danger threatened her? He can't sit still like "lumps on a pickle" with 
her in trouble. Nobody, including Benson, can hold him back. 

It is also obvious the tiny blonde reciprocates the emotion. She saves him 
from criminals in The Green Killer in much the same fashion Smitty saves her — 
by charging in recklessly. 

In The Wilder Curse Nellie jealously says to Smitty: "To you any female 
under sixty that isn't in a sideshow, is a poor little thing that needs help." Smitty 

Page 41 


helps this along by remarking, constantly, how pretty one of the damsels is, 
enraging the blonde no end. 

But whenever it looks like the end of the line, Nellie can always be found 
beside Smitty, hand in vast paw. A number of instances when it looks like the 
finish they admit to each other that the opposite is "rather swell." With the 
danger over, however, neither will admit to having said it. 

Nellie isn't the only one prone to fits of jealously, either. Many exploits find 
the giant fretting that Nellie may find the too-good-looking Cole Wilson a bit too 
interesting. In one adventure, he i 

goes so far as to relate his 
feelings on the subject to Josh, 
who quickly quells his 





Smitty's ponderous strength is 
second only to that of his chief. 
The Avenger. His feats are 
amazing. In The Blood Ring, 
while trying to save Nellie from 
being sacrificed to an angry 
Egyptian god, he pushes over two 
massive stone pillars like a 
modem day Sampson, arms 
ripping through his coat sleeves, 
blood spurting from beneath his 

"What Smitty took hold of 
usually disintegrated." When he 
grabs a villain's leg, he simply 
squeezes, causing excruciating 
pain to the crook. He never 
learned to box; he merely throws 
a punch and whether the thug has 
his guard up, it doesn't matter. 

During the events of Justice, 
Inc., while he and Benson are 
being held captive in a stone cell on an island in the middle of the great lakes, he 
snaps the chains shackling him to the stone floor. In the same novel, he picks up 
a crook and holds him at arm's length two feet above the ground. 

Page 42 


In The Yellow Hoard he uproots an eighteen inch thick tree to save Nellie, 
Mac and himself after they are trapped in an underground cave while searching 
for a lost cache of Aztec gold. 

Like Benson, he has the ability to wrap his hand around a locked door knob 
and twist the mechanism into submission (that is, when he is not bursting 
directly through them). 

He can snap quarter inch hemp simply by expanding his chest. 

In Nevlo he breaks through a steel-shielded window while trapped in a 
hospital room flooding with poisonous gas. The doctor confined in the room 
with him gasps in amazement because the shields were designed to prevent just 

that sort of 
crazed patients, 
counted on 

In The 
and Midnight 
quite capable 
bars out of 
Nellie says if 
with his back 
head, he might 

Like Monk 
can bend a 
in half with his 

His favorite 
down on the 
crook's head, 
senseless. In 
Murder this 
against him as, 
the influence of 
device, he uses 
Mac (no doubt 
wish for all the 
called him 
Also like 

thing with 
They had not 
anyone like 
Devil 's Horns 
Murder he is 
of yanking 
he thought 
instead of his 
have half a 

Mayfair, he 
silver dollar 
bare hands, 
blow is 
top of a 
knocking him 
trait is used 
while under 
a criminal's 
the blow on 
a suppressed 
times he 
Monk, Smitty 

Page 43 





I depending on his rigorous lifestyle 
to keep him fit. Even so, he is 
severely winded after chasing a 
blimp, on foot and on bicycle, in an 
effort to save Josh from criminals in 
The Hate Master. 

He is not framed quite as often as 
some of the other members of the 
band, but in the distressing events of 
The Devil's Horns he is set up for 
murder. This worries him, as a rap 
like that would keep him in jail, or 
worse, for a long, long time, due to 
his past encounters with the law. 
Fortunately, in a classic chapter, 
Benson, in disguise, remedies the 
situation by breaking him out of the 

In Tuned for Murder, which is 
one of the giant's toughest 
adventures, he acquires a welt across 
his belly because he isn't wearing his 
^ celluglass underwear. Why he isn't, 
is never explained. 

Smitty becomes the recipient of 
numerous diseases throughout the series, despite never being naturally ill a day 
in his life. In the strange, near fatal events of Death in Slow Motion, he contracts 
the slow motion sickness, a form of super- fast-acting anemia. The Avenger is 
like a caged animal trying to find a cure. If he doesn't, Smitty will die. To make 
matters worse, Mac also comes down with the malady and the two of them share 
a room while Benson struggles to find an antidote. Smitty, however, is a bit more 
rash than Mac and decides to not stay bedridden. He was never one for taking 
things lying down and he wasn't about to start now. Instead, he goes after the 
men who caused the disease, promptly getting himself caught and endangering 
his life further. 

In the Doc Savagelike case of The Green Killer, a clan of monkey men nail 
him with a poison dart tipped with curare, while he is trying to rescue a girl from 
their hairy clutches. 

Page 44 


But The Avenger, always a step ahead {well, almost always), has already 
worked out an antidote for the deadly poison. He hadn't had a chance to test it, 
but when Smitty staggers into Bleek Street headquarters, he has little alternative. 
Fortunately, it works. 

It is never stated how many languages Smitty speaks, but from the above- 
mentioned novel we know he speaks German with an accent. All of the aides can 
communicate with sign language. 

Smitty is the 
catalyst for a 
number of 
especially in the 
later tales by 
The eerie 
events of Black 
Chariots begin 
with Smitty 
journeying to 
California to 
visit old friends 
for a reunion. It 
is his first 
"vacation" in 
ages, but 
destined not to 
be a week of 
fun in the sun. 
Before he 
knows it, he 
gets tangled up 
with flying 
saucers and 
Nazi spies. 
Well, he isn't 
exactly the 
relaxing type, 


Page 45 



The Cartoon Crimes mentions Smitty was named after his kooky uncle. It is 
back to California where, while attending an electronic engineering convention 
(which he never gets to), he meets up with this eccentric relative, who is nearly 
blowing up the hotel where Smitty is staying, for the first time in years. Uncle 
"Algie", as he is called, is a peculiar crotchety inventor, from whom Smitty 
seems to have gotten his talent, with a passion for the innocuous expression 

"Excelsior!" By 
the end of the 
novel, which 
involves a deadly 
new machine that 
causes people to 
commit suicide, 
Smitty has picked 
it up. The novel, 
fittingly enough, 
is titled The 
Death Machine. 

Heathcote Smith 
was both a genius 
and a valuable 
aide to the man 
with the frosty 
eyes. He was 
introduced in the 
very first saga and 
played a major 
role in every 
novel thereafter. 
Wherever he is 
today, I'm sure he 
and Nellie are 
walking hand in 
hand into a purple 

Thfl ''brkV GDntBin«4 gald studded with a Ercat fifflcraldf 

Page 46 



Fergus MacMurdie makes his first appearance in Justice. Inc. as a field worker at 
Buffalo Airport the fateful day Dick Benson boards a plane that shuttles him, 
and Mac, into destiny. 

When Benson returns to the field to punish those responsible for killing his 
family, MacMurdie is the only one who'll admit to what conspired that day. For 
cooperating with The Avenger, he nearly 
gets his Scots head blown off. 

The dour Scot is described as a bit over 
six feet tall and thin enough to give a tailor 
nightmares. He sports coarse red hair arid 
sandy ropes for eyebrows perched over 
bitter blue eyes. His hands, when doubled 
into fists, resemble a pair of ivory bone 
mallets. The size of these monstrosities 
rival the hamlike paws of Renny Renwick. 

In Justice, Inc. Benson thinks Mac 
probably owns the biggest pair of feet he 
has ever seen, though at the time he hasn't 
met Josh. These feet get him captured in 
The Devil's Horns because they stick out 
from under the curtain in back of which he 
is hiding a good six inches. 

His feet are not the only part of his 
anatomy that is oversized: he has huge red 
ears that look like boat sails. 

He alone of the group has lost as much 
as Benson to criminal plotting. He shares 
the same burning desire to rid the world 
of crime, though he has taken the shock 

somewhat better. His bitter blue eyes still reflect the bleakness and pain of his 

Like Smitty, he hates men who look like rats. The men who killed his wife 
and small son looked like rats. 

Years back Mac had owned four drugstores . He was happy, making a 

Page 47 


living — ^until one day when a crime ring invaded his hfe, trying to coerce him 
into paying protection money for his stores. He refused and the criminals 
retaliated by blowing up his largest establishment. His family was inside. After 
that, he no longer cared what happened to him. He let the stores slide and drifted 
from job to job until fate placed him at Buffalo Airport. 

By the time of The Yellow Hoard, Benson sets him up in his own drugstore on 
Waverly and Sixth, with his own chemical lab in the back, one of the most 
complete in existence. 

He is a licensed 






*V. THE 

completed medical 
was so poor. Like 
aides, Mac has a 
dour personality. 

most peculiar trait, 
was going 
his dour Scotch 
the most dreadful 
sure to happen any 
he looked on the 

"But when an 
in which there 
conceivable way 
almost cheerful, 
sure success." 

Smitty calls 
also adds Mac 
an undertaker. 

Though all the 
band are 

wealthy, he grudgingly parts with a dime and complains about going out of 
business if Josh eats too many more maple-nut sundaes. He shares this quirk 
with Doc's man. Long Tom Roberts. 

In moments of stress he has a habit of rolling his r's, but seems prone to this 
anyway from time to time. 

Like The Avenger, he doesn't much care if he is killed during one of their 




pharmacist and 
though he never 
school because he 
all The Avenger's 
few quirks to his 

MacMurdie had a 
When everything 
smoothly, it was 
nature to predict 
things that were 
minute. Always 
gloomy side of 

emergency arose 
seemed no 
out, he grew 
and predicted 

him nothing but a 
Pollyanna. He 
should have been 

members of the 

Page 48 


adventures. He doesn't fear death. 

He is responsible for many of the chemical devices the group uses in their 
escapades. In The Yellow Hoard his first significant contribution is that of a gas 
so volatile it can knock a man out in three seconds flat. 

In The Flame Breathers he perfects a pellet that when snapped between a 
thumb and forefinger blots up a huge amount of poison gas. 

In The Frosted Death he finds a cure for the disease of the same name. He 
works in his lab day and night, searching for the answer. Josh calls him "a great 

Tftt jflwhFfrar firit^^sfffa^ej their jtrajiga ifapfit 


Page 49 



As with Smitty, not all Mac's inventions are successful. In House of Death he 
is working on a local anesthetic that kills pain instantly. Unfortunately, it also 
kills skin. 

In Nevlo he is still working on it, and since by the end of the series he still 
doesn't have it, we can assume he gave it up. 

Mac manages to be jailed once in the series, just beating out Josh and Cole, 
who seem adept at avoiding the authorities in frame ups. 

Perhaps first and foremost he loves arguing with Smitty. He constantly teases 
the giant about the "toys" he is working on. He roars with laughter at their first 
meeting in Justice, Inc., after he discovers Smitty's true name, proceeding to call 
him "Algie," much to the big man's disgust. Mac is probably the only one who 

Page 50 


can call him that and still walk around on two legs. 

He catches two of the maladies brought about by criminal masterminds. A 
villain gives him a dose of "the frosted death" in the novel of the same title, and 
he picks up a case of "slow motion sickness" in Death in Slow Motion. 

It is Mac who starts off Goulart's eerie novel, The Nightwitch Devil. While 
visiting a friend, biologist John Royle, in Nightwitch, Massachusetts, he tangles 
with devil worshippers, witchcraft, black magic and Nazi spies, in a tale that 
may have been inspired by Hex, the Doc Savage adventure. He is supposed to be 

Page 51 


on vacation. 

In the puzzling case of The Iron Skull, Benson sends most of the Justice team 

to Connecticut because Mac has been missing for a number of days. 

To make events all the more perplexing, Smitty is strolling down a New York 

street when he spots Mac stumbling along the sidewalk ahead of him. Suddenly, 

Mac explodes, nearly making Smitty an ex-member of the band. Spectators pass 

out and race for the 
toilet when they 
observe Mac's severed 
head rolling around on 
the sidewalk, wires 
protruding from the 
neck. Luckily for Mac 
and the other team 
members, it is merely a 
robot doppelganger, set 
to detonate in Justice 
headquarters. Cold 
weather caused the 
thing to blow up early. 
Mac is the first, and 
second to The Avenger, 
most driven member of 
Justice, Inc. He is with 
Benson from the 
beginning saga to the 
last. His irascible 
personality endears him 
to the other members 
and to the readers. 

Perhaps Mac is now 
with his family again, 
finally finding the joy 
and fulfillment he was 
denied in life before he 
met Richard Henry 
Benson. In pulp hero 
Heaven he and Smitty 
are probably still 

Page 52 



Smitty first encounters the diminutive Nellie Gray when he sees her exiting a 
schoolhouse, accompanying a small boy, where she works as an instructor, a job 
she would not hold for long after the opening events of The Yellow Hoard. 

When she is ambushed by a rat- faced 
denizen of the underworld, Smitty gawks 
in amazement as the petite blonde wipes 
the pavement with the crook. She looks 
as if a sideways look would make her 
crack, so to watch her prevail against a 
crook at least a hundred pounds heavier 
is little short of mind-boggling. 

Nellie has yellow-bronze hair that, 
frames a delicate face, according to The 
Yellow Hoard (this may have been an 
attempt at invoking images of Pat Savage 
in the readers' minds, as later tales state 
her hair simply as blonde), and the finest 
pink-white skin you'd ever care to see. 

The Yellow Hoard also describes her 
eyes as gray, though later yams don't 
support this. At the beginning of The 
Devil 's Horns they are cited as blue. 

She stands a sliver over five feet, 
nudging the plus side of 100 pounds. 
"She looked like a dish of peaches going 
somewhere to be eaten with cream." She 
wears a number three pump on dainty 
little feet that can kick the stuffing out of 
criminals twice her size. 

She attended Vassar, studying such 
defensive arts as jujitsu, boxing and wrestling. Her superior skill with the 
martial, arts saves her from being sacrificed to an Egyptian god in the perilous 
case of The Blood Ring. 

Page 53 


The Yellow Hoard gives her age at "around twenty-three," She resembles a 
doll cast from the finest Delft, a pert pretty thing to be set on a pedestal and 
admired. Not Nellie Gray. No way. She is as feisty as Pat Savage and much 
more capable than the sometimes dim-witted Margot Lane. Unlike Pat, however, 
she is a legitimate card-carrying member of the group, a bottled hurricane, not 
just an outsider trying to hone in on The Avenger 's deadly cases. 

Nellie first meets up with the Justice boys after her kindly father, a retired 
archaeologist, is murdered by criminals trying to secure the Mexican bricks he 
brought back from his last expedition. 

Page 54 


They get one of the bricks and frame NelUe for the grisly murder. 

The Avenger exonerates the blonde barracuda by pointing out to the simple- 
minded police how the murder could have been committed otherwise. At first, 
Nellie suspects Justice, Inc. is just another band of crooks bent of prying the 
secret of the bricks from her. Not until the end of the novel does she realize who 
they really are. By this time, she wants to join up with them. Benson readily 
accepts. She is also the heir to a vast deposit of wealth, which The Avenger tries 

kf EENNETa HPBESvIl Fic^mo^s craaror oF ' 'Dec ^civo^d' ' 

^hmH woJfcJ The ileacP C4DI« bflcft *e Wfe, An^ 
^cm^ «f fhe living ajna goJng hi jOFtf fU^ deadl 


Page 55 


to give her after the criminals destroy themselves. 

'"It's ours,'" she states. '"We share alike. But I have a suggestion to make.' She 
stared very seriously at Benson. 'I'd suggest that we leave it where it is as a sort 
of permanent and tremendous bank deposit, to be drawn on in a perpetual fight 
against crime. And I'd like to join in that fight.. .Crime killed my father. I want to 
wipe that out by 
working against 
crime. With you.'" 

Nellie sports 
many skills valuable 
to Justice, Inc. and 
uses all of them to 
her utmost ability 
throughout the 
course of the series. 

She can take a 
marksman's medal 
with a gun, swing 
from tree to tree in 
the same fashion as 
The Avenger, read 
lips — as all the 
group can — and has 
more courage than a 
steeplejack (though 
in The Happy Killers 
she admits a phobia 
for mice. Chills 
skitter down her 
spine when she spots 
one darting across a 
floor while searching 
a gloomy old house 
for clues). 

She is versed in 
woodcraft and wilderness ways, having accompanied her father on many of his 
expeditions into the interiors of the South American jungles. 

She tends towards the impulsive side, though Cole Wilson bests all the crew 
in this trait, darting into trouble at the drop of a hat. Like Pat, she is disappointed 
when left out of any excitement . Smitty calls her a "reckless little witch." He 


^■^9 4 I IV^ 

W^^sfWt\gut, myster). hat*, gre*d 
TTitrTfToody murder i|E meet in the 

^^■-^^■■^ HOUSE OF DEATH 

Page 56 


wastes no time in nibbing it in whenever he has to get her out of a jam. 

But when the giant is threatened, she is Uke a queen bee, buzzing back and 
forth with worry. She cares much for the moon- faced engineer. So much so that 
by the time of Pictures of Death the are at the Pink Room of The Coyle Hotel, 
dancing, an unhkely pairing of big and small. "Smitty and Nellie, as a couple, 
had to be seen to be believed." However, the evening doesn't conclude without 
Nellie getting in at least one dig: she calls him the "world's worst dancer." 
The DeviVs Horns reveals Nellie is an accomplished singer. In this exploit, 

she wrangles a job as a 
songstress at a club 
suspected by The Avenger 
as being a front for 
criminals. It is, and we're off 
on another exciting exploit 
with the tiny blonde 
package of dynamite. 

She is nearly killed time 
without number during her 
escapades and Smitty is not 
always around to save her. 

In Nevlo she is tossed off 
a cliff by a gangster, only to 
turn the plunge into a 
perfect dive into the ocean. 
If the water had been a 
shallow pool instead of a 
deep furrow, her crime- 
fighting career would have 
ended early on. 

In The Hate Master she 
is jailed for a murder she, of 
course, didn't commit. 
While sitting in a Maine 
slammer, she discovers her 
troubles are far from over. 
The cell begins to swarm 
with a thousand maddened 
rats! If she was scared of 
one small mouse, this must 

Page 57 


be heart-stopping for her. 

After the rats are finished off, thanks to MacMurdie, the jail is converged 
upon by a mob of angry townspeople, who have been given, unknowingly, a 
dose of the hate serum. It's not a pleasant adventure for the diminutive blonde. 
In the mysterious case of The Blood Ring, she is nearly done in a number of 
times. The same is true with a percentage of the tales. These close calls are not 
enough to make her give up her adventurous career, however. Like Pat, 
excitement is in her blood. 

By the time of The Man from Atlantis he memory seems to be slipping as she 
now needs to take notes during the tales beyond this point. She is the one 
transcribing for The Avenger's files, from which Ernst and Goulart appear to 
have written the adventures. The notes for the Goulart stories must have been 
vague, indeed. 

Red Moon states she has relatives living in Brimstone, Connecticut. Where 
they came from is unclear as her father was the only relation cited before this 

point. It is while on her way to visit 
her Aunt Jenny and Uncle Jake she 
encounters a body torn to bloody 
shreds sprawled in a snow bank. All 
clues point to the work of a werewolf 
and before the adventure is over, she 
nearly becomes the creature's midnight 

It's Nellie who starts off The 
Cartoon Crimes as well. While 
visiting her friend Jeanne Lewing, she 
discovers the woman's husband has 
been having strange visions of comic 
book characters come to life — 
characters he created. Before the tale 
concludes, the rest of Justice, Inc. 
witness flying men and "Wonderman" 
dashing across the New York 
countryside (no doubt Cole Wilson got 
a personal kick out of this, being a 
Wonderman fanatic). 

Nellie Gray was a valuable and 
trusted aide to The Avenger. Perky 

Page 58 



and exciting, she held her own, and more, against the male-dominated team. The 
other female member would not see nearly as much action. We last see her in the 
closing pages Demon Island, brooding over Cole's impending marriage to the 

lovely Heather 
Brail, arm in 
arm with 

parading around 
a spooky island 
in search of a 
hidden loot. 

became my 
character the 
moment I met 
her, with 
Smitty, outside 

schoolhouse. A 
case of love at 
first read (but 
don't tell Pat). 
She and Smitty 
may have 
shared many 
more glorious 
together. We 
may never 
know. At any 
rate, she 
remains the 
prettiest, and 
toughest, aide 
in the annals of 
Justice, Inc. 

t^hind ib& 3mffif jjujf* d^f^n on bis uptiiin^ £tt, 

Page 59 




When we first encounter the team's only husband and wife members, it is 
viciously fighting off the criminals who murdered their employers, the Gant 
brothers, in The Sky Walker. Benson comes upon the scene while investigating 
the mysterious building crumblings apparently tied in with a man walking in 
midair. The Avenger helps Josh and Rosabel vanquish the remaining no-goods 
and realizes they would be valuable editions to Justice, Inc. 

Josh is described as a lanky Negro who normally moves so slowly, with 
eyelids drooping somnolently over black eyes, he is nicknamed "Sleepy." His 
feet are even larger than MacMurdie's and he moves with the slow, shuffling gait 
expected of a black man of the era (this was the 1940s, remember. While 
progressive. Street & Smith's liberal attitude had some reins). 

When Benson first meets him. Josh speaks with "ahs" and "suhs." The 
Avenger tells him he doesn't have to talk that way, as he is obviously well 

"There was no accent or Southern slurring of his words." Josh talks as society 
expects him to only when around unfamiliar people. He calls it "good protective 

Page 60 


coloration." This trait fools a number of criminals over the course of the series. 

Actually, Josh and Rosabel are honor graduates of Tuskegee Institute. Josh is 
sharp and alert, with a brain like an encyclopedia. 

Rosabel is described as a pretty Negress with liquid dark eyes. They are 
fiercely devoted to one another, charging into action without heed whenever the 

I other is endangered. 
In chapter four 
of The Sky Walker 
they join up 
officially with the 
Justice gang, 
solidifying the 
membership until 
the advent of Cole 
Wilson in the 
thirteenth saga. 
Murder on Wheels. 

Josh hates 
physical exercise so 
much he doesn't 
move if he doesn't 
have to. Smitty says 
Josh wouldn't climb 
a flight of stairs if 
his life depended on 
it (though he does, 
after considerable 
thought, in his 
debut novel, after 
Benson and Smitty 
have a bit of trouble 
with the elevator). 
Josh simply replies, 
"Neither does a 

He is somewhat 
of a dusky 

Jffsh'i Isdf a&at vut Had ^9wa towsrd fhe vr^Hv^tttt m^ltta tur/Mta 4f (^ »/rf;wi. 


philosopher. "It is 
only when a houn' 

Page 61 


rH]a: AVENcan 

Jatt siw ^MTk farms I^tt^a^ pp^b 

dawg barks that folks pay attention to him, when he sleeps in the sun, they let 
him alone," says Josh of his put on Southern drawl. 

Though he is the least powerful of the group, he is still more than a match for 
any two men. He is a black panther when aroused, Rosabel a black tigress. The 
Devil's Horns states he is an expert marksman and boxer. Rosabel can more than 
hold her own in any knock-down drag-out fight when her lanky husband is 
imperiled. She carries a .22 caliber pistol beneath her dress. Josh seems not to 
need a weapon, preferring his bony fists in a fight. 

Josh's favorite pastime while awaiting orders from Benson is sitting in Mac's 
drugstore gulping maple-nut sundaes, sometimes six at a shot. Mac says it's a 
wonder Josh doesn't look like a string of beads with all those sundaes in such a 
skinny body. Mac also worries that Josh will eat him out of business. During The 

Page 62 


DeviVs Horns he eats four in an hour and a half. Surprisingly, he never gets sick. 

Josh and Rosabel probably see the least amount of action because they are 
husband and wife, as well as being limited by social prejudice. Usually, their 
action is confined to playing a maid or butler in one story or another. 

In The Devil 's Horns Josh pulls a particularly clever trick on a black worker 
for a suspect, to wrangle himself a job as servant. He scares the devil out of a 
man who has apparently been doing something he shouldn't have with somebody 
else's wife. 

In the same 
story, Rosabel 
plays maid to 
Nellie when the 
latter poses as a 
singer for a night 

In the classic 
Avenger yarn The 
Blood Ring, 
Rosabel is again a 
maid. In the same 
tale. Josh is 
assigned to guard 
the Egyptian 
room in the 
Museum, because 
he "blends so well 
with the 

darkness." After 
spotting an 
I Egyptian mummy 
shuffling around 
the morguelike 
place in the dead 
of night, he 
hastily gives up 
the security 

Page 63 


In Tuned for Murder, while acting as a shoeshine boy at a suspect's factory, 
he narrowly escapes being thrown into a cauldron of molten steel. Only his 
catlike reflexes save him from looking like someone's bronzed baby shoes. The 
experience gives him quite a scare, however. 

In the mysterious case of The Smiling Dogs, it is Josh and Rosabel who 
discover the answer to the red midget and green dashound manifestations by 
catching the perpetrators in an abandoned store. 
Josh begins the deadly events of Death in Slow Motion by picking up a sick bum 

he finds 
along the street 
not want to be 
Josh, being the 
he is, made it 
brings the 
Mac's drugstore 
lucky enough 
the "slow 
members don't 

In Midnight 
pierces his leg. 
playing a trick 
think he and his 
He has 

bullets from the 
and replaced 
blanks — except 
revolver. When 
decides to put a 
Josh's leg, the 
wounded. It is 
control Josh 
motionless and 

Josh has the 
distinction of 





(the bum did 
picked up, but 
his duty). He 
derelict to 
for aid. Josh is 
not to acquire 
though other 
fare as well. 
Murder a bullet 
Benson is 
on a gang of 
making them 
crew are dead, 
removed the 
gang's guns 
them with 
for the leader's 
the crook 
bullet into 
aide is really 
with amazing 
pulls off the 

being the only 

member of Justice, Inc. to have died in an adventure. This occurs in The Glass 
Mountain when, acting as a cook on a tunnel building project, he is struck down 
by a blast of lightning from an angry Pawnee Rain God. The Avenger applies all 

Page 64 



his tremendous medical knowledge in limited facilities to save the lanky Negro. 
He does, and after a few minutes of roaming the spirit world. Josh is back 
amongst the living (Doc Savage accomplishes the same feat, saving Monk and 
Ham, in one of his adventures). 

The experience doesn't seem to leave any scars, as he is back on the case 
shortly thereafter. By this time. The Avenger, with his usual foresight, has taken 
the precaution of providing all his men with rubber-soled shoes, so Mac escapes 
with nothing more than a severe shock when he is hit a short time later. 

In the Devil on the Moon-likQ adventure The Man from Atlantis, din odd 
occurrence takes place (odd for a pulp adventure series, anyway). Rosabel, in an 
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ unusual twist, becomes 

' pregnant. Apparently, the 
couple didn't spend all their 
time chasing crooks. This 
effectively removes Rosabel 
from crime-fighting for the 
rest of the series. Josh 
becomes a bit less reckless 
now that he is going to be a 
father. They have twins, a boy 
and a girl, which puts a crimp 
in the bet Cole was trying to 
make with Nellie. This all 
occurs in Black Chariots, 
where we see a strangely 
human side of the machinelike 
Avenger, who walks into the 
hospital carrying a teddy bear 
and rattle. 

Josh's appearances dwindle 
after this, mostly limited to 
finding a name for the babies. 
I He is much less eager to get 
shot at or blown up than he 
used to be. 

Josh and Rosabel are 
unique characters for their 
time. As the only black 
members of the elite cast, they 

Page 65 


demonstrated The Avenger's deep respect for human Ufe and Uberty, regardless 
of color or creed. At a time when few restaurants would admit black humans, 
Benson treated Josh and Rosabel with as much respect as the other members of 
the team. The only limits were those forced upon them by society. 

Although never used to their full potential, they were nevertheless a quantum 
leap above the stereotypes evident other pulp fiction magazines. 

Page 66 



Cole Wilson spends most of Murder on Wheels thwarting the other members 
of Justice, Inc. He makes his entrance early on in this tale, struggling to keep the 
lead damsel out of the clutches of killers who have stolen the Marr supercar. 

He is young, brash, just under 
six feet tall (Three Gold Crowns 
states he is five-feet-eleven), and 
rather striking in looks. He has 
straight brown hair, combed high 
off the forehead; a heavy jaw; alert 
black eyes and the look of an 
Indian. He never wears a hat, 
preferring to forgo the fashion 
trends of the day. 

He attended the best schools in 
the country and garnered a brilliant 
record as an engineer. Because of 
this ability, he is summoned to 
Washington in Nevlo and Death in 
Slow Motion on an important 
government defense project. In 
House of Death he is in Detroit on 
an unspecified engineering 

Murder on Wheels reveals that 
the inventor of the supercar, Phineas Jackson, practically adopted Cole when he 
was a homeless orphan of twelve. Cole retains a fierce loyalty to the sometimes 
eccentric inventor. 

This novel also states he has a tendency to be a bit on the radical side in his 
political leanings. "He didn't seem to hold any particular political belief, but he 
was always popping off in radical ways." "Kind of like a baby Robin Hood," 
says Josh. 

His uncanny strength and speed make him almost an equal to The Avenger. In 
fact, it is Cole who tricks Benson into the ray tempering machine at the Marr 
plant, causing Benson to revert to his normal pre-shock self 

He is the most impulsive member of the band, always charging into a 

Page 67 



If; \ " 

situation with his heart instead of his head (unless you count Smitty's rampages 
every time NelUe is in a jam). This habit leads to a number of near misses on his 
life and an equal number of captures. Sometimes, however, his impulsiveness 
leads to the saving of a life. 

Of the aides, he is the recipient of most of the biological weapons employed 
by a criminal genius. 

In The Hate Master he is forced by criminals to drink some of the hate serum 
and tries to kill The Avenger (strangely, though most novels cite Cole as almost 

an equal to The 
Avenger in speed and 
strength, Benson 
easily overpowers 

In The Black 
Death Cole grabs a 
flower box delivered 
to Justice 
headquarters and 
contracts the hideous 
"black death". Shortly 
before this incident, 
the Black Wings Cult 
leader had forecast 
death to all members 
of the band. As with 
the previous 
adventure. The 
Avenger's cure may 
cost Cole his life. 
(Oddly, it is stated in 
I this novel that the 
townspeople who 
acquired the malady 
by drinking tainted 
water would recover 
eventually anyway, as 
the serum wears off 
I when ingested. Why 
I it wouldn't have worn 
off on Cole is a 

Page 68 



The only reason he doesn't pick up the "slow motion sickness" is because he 
is out of town at the time. 

Like Benson, he has a no-life-taking policy. Even so, in Pictures of Death, he 
accidentally hits a crook too hard and rids the underworld of another crony. 

The only weapon he ever carries is a small spring gun that shoots a .22 pellet 
containing some of MacMurdie's anesthetic gas. This little pea-shooter can snap 
a pellet some eighty feet. 

By the time of The Man from Atlantis Cole takes on a more dominant role in 
the group. In this tale, he becomes flippant, wise-cracking left and right. This 




though it is not 

where he picked 

He is on 
in The Purple 
as with the 
members who 
take vacations, 
knows it, he is 
with the 
dead and 
spies on the set 
being directed 
friend, Terrance 
He is also 
with the lovely 
Heather Brail, 
he falls in love 
of the 

At a party. Cole 
"old Friend" 
Cranston across 
is not known if 
was involved in 
if the real 
was in the room 

reveals he 




it up. 


Zombie, but, 


have tried to 

this one is 

Before he 




of a movie 

by his 




with whom 

by the end 


spots his 


the room. It 

The Shadow 

this case, or 



Page 69 


occasion, or which one Cole considered his friend. Perhaps, if it were The 
Shadow, the Master of Darkness felt the case was better left in The Avenger's 
capable hands, as he had his hands full in Chinatown at the time. 

Cole would encounter Heather Brail and Terrance O'Malley again on the set 
of the director's next feature film in Demon Island. This time it would signal his 
doom as a single man. The dashing, impulsive Cole Wilson would ask the lovely 
movie queen for her hand in marriage. Of course, she accepts. This would make 
Cole the second married member of the group. Would Cole really tie the knot? 
Smitty doesn't think so. "He ain't the kind of guy to settle down," says Smitty. 
He calls Cole a boy at heart, all excited about saving Heather from the ghosts 
and ghouls of the hexed island. 

While Cole's marriage to Heather seems doubtful, he was always doing things 
impulsively, so maybe it happened. Whatever the case, I'm sure he accompanied 
The Avenger on many more cases after the terrifying events of Demon Island. 

Cole Wilson was the last member to join the elite group of crime-fighters and 

Tht j*v«iftr'.? ff#iv h*^4 W1M4S. LEftEK mdd§taif friim tb^ fr&Arf^^ 

Page 70 


possibly he never quite fit in. He always seemed like a fifth wheel, unmotivated 
by the avenging desire that linked the rest of the band. They had each faced the 
horror of losing something they loved. Cole saw it as kicks, excitement, more 
akin to the attitudes expressed by Doc's men. Perhaps by the final adventure he 
decided he had had enough and it was time to settle down. If he stayed, his 
impulsiveness may have gotten him killed shortly after Demon Island. 

Page 71 



MacMurdie's Drugstore squats on the comer of Waverly and Sixth. It is a 
wizard's den, a magical place where wondrous compounds and electrical 
masterpieces are birthed in the never-ending quest to obliterate crime. It is 
golden, much like the Hidalgo Trading Co. from Doc Savage or the B. Jonas 
office from The Shadow; one of the staples of The Avenger Magazine. 

An ordinary-looking structure, it houses one of the most complete chemical 
and electrical laboratories in the world, surpassed only by The Avenger's lab at 
Bleek Street headquarters (or possibly Doc's on the eighty-sixth floor). 

The pharmacy part accounts for only one third of the total floor space, lending 

a front of innocence to 
the apothecary. Lining 
the walls are counters 
carrying everything a 
modem dmgstore 
should contain: 
powders, pills, creams. 
On one side is a 
prescription counter and 
pharmacist's desk. The 
other side boasts a long 
marble soda fountain 
where Josh and Cole can 
be found devouring 
maple-nut sundaes, or, 
in Cole's case, reading 
the newest pulp 
magazine or 
Wonderman comic 
book, while awaiting 
orders from The 

Occasionally, there is 
a young boy of nineteen 
with intelligent brown 
eyes {and a valuable 

Page 72 


habit of being totally incurious as to all the queer things going on in the back of 
the store) working behind the counter while Mac and Smitty toil in the back 

An iron door bars the entrance to that room. At times the door proves a 
hindrance. In The Black Death a girl tricks Mac and locks herself in the lab. 

Behind the 
iron door is an 
enormous room 
that takes up the 
remaining two- 
thirds of the 
floor space. To 
one side is Mac's 
beakers, retorts, 
jars of 
Bunsen burners 
and rows of 
glass tubing. The 
Frosted Death 
states there is 
also a half-ton 
microscope with 

occupying a 
good section of 
the comer. 

On the 
opposite wall is 
everything you'd 

ever need to invent anything electrical . All the paraphernalia that could have 
been dreamed about by an advanced electrical engineer. This is Smitty's part of 
the lab. 

"Along the rear, taking up about two equal spaces, were the results of the 





Page 73 


work of the two." Cabinets are stocked full of vials containing drugs unknown to 
chemists because they come from the brain of MacMurdie. 

Beside the cabinet sits another that contains a mysterious gray screen. This is 
an advanced television designed by Smitty . "In it, he had put the work of other 
men, changed and bettered by his own work, and principles and devices of his 
own invention." 

This electronic wonder is connected with another like it at Bleek Street 

headquarters. Mac and Smitty use it to contact The Avenger when something 

unusual happens near the drugstore, or when they have discovered something 

important to ^I^^^^^^^V^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^hI the present 

case. B.^^^^» ^=^«^v^p^p^Hvn^iv^H 

the adventures 

least occupy a 

the yam at this 

Many of 
start at or at 
small part of 

Smitty brings 
persons who 
an explosion 
opening pages 
Hoard. Josh 
bum there to 
Death in Slow 
crooks attack 
The Happy 
and Mac are 
in The Man 
when, through 

spot a woman 
by a gang of 

better part of 
Death in this 
for an antidote 

two injured 
were caught in 
there in the 
of The Yellow 
brings a sick 
begin the 
and near fatal 
the place in 
Killers. Cole 

trivial matters 
from Atlantis 
the big plate 
windows, they 
being attacked 
spends the 
The Frosted 
lab, searching 
to the 

mold. This novel reveals there is a secret tunnel leading from the back of the 
store to an exit on Waverly Place. This tunnel is often used by The Avenger 

Page 74 



when he wishes to enter the store secretly. In this instance, Mac uses it to get the 
cure for the "frosted death" to Benson before criminals, who are watching the 

place, waylay 
him en route 
(they do 

In Dr. Time 
a bomb is 
delivered to 
the store in a 
baby carriage. 
The device 
goes off, 
giving Cole 
quite a scare, 
but it is only a 
smoke bomb 
and some 
sent as a 
warning from 
Dr. Time to 
keep Justice, 
Inc. off the 
case (like that 
would work). 
I drugstore is a 
' fantastical 
place, wherein 

adventures and 
plenty of 
action takes 
place. Magical 
things occurred 
there; probably 
they still do. 


Page 75 




In the bowels of Manhattan is a street only one short block long. Its ominous 
name hints at the person who inhabits the dwelling taking up most of the 
expanse: Bleek Street (strangely The Happy Killers paperback version has it as 
Bleeker Street. In the next adventure, it is again Bleek). On this little-used 
avenue resides the headquarters of the world's most elite band of crime-fighters, 

Justice, Inc. 
On the north side of 
the block-long street 
squats the 

windowless back of 
a huge warehouse, 
which stands vacant 
and boarded up, a 
skeleton of a 
building. A loft 
building and small 
stores finish out the 
south side. The 
Avenger owns or 
leases all the 
buildings on the 
block, so, in effect, 
he owns the entire 

Tucked between the 
shells of buildings on 
the south side, stand 
three old and dingy, 
narrow brick 
buildings, each 
reaching three stories 
in height, that have 
been thrown into 
one. The left and 
right building doors 
are triple locked and 
bricked over from 

Page 76 


,f^'tl'S_ DEVIL'S HO%^& 

the inside. Only the 
center entrance is 
ever used . A small 
unobtrusive sign in 
dull gilt letters 
sports the legend 
"Justice", (by the 
time of The Flame 
Breathers, the sign 
says "Justice, Inc.") 

Upon entering 
the structure, a 
visitor finds himself 
standing in a small 
vestibule, facing a 
stairway that leads 
to the second and 
third floors. A light 
blinking on in the 
top floor room 
indicates the 
entrance of a visitor. 
A television screen 
shows a precise 
picture of the person 
to those monitoring 
in the upper room. A 
tiny camera, 
mounted behind the 
Justice sign, can 
snap photos in day 
or night through the 
aid of infra-red rays. --------- «— — — 

Death in Slow Motion states the stairs are richly carpeted and the tapestries 
hanging on the walls are worth a fortune. 

In Pictures of Death the stairs have been replaced by an elevator and 
regulated to use as an exit. In The Happy Killers the stairs are back again. 

A small sign on frosted glass at the second floor waiting area bears the 
legend: "Another flight up please." In some yams, visitors are screened there. 

Page 77 


Also, a small colored indicator warns The Avenger if the entrant carries a 
weapon. In Pictures of Death a villain intent on stealing a fake painting of "The 
Dock." bypasses that alarm by carrying in a vial of nitroglycerin. Benson 
remarks the situation would have to be remedied after this near fatal incident. 
Pictures of Death also states the elevator can be sealed to prevent anyone 
from getting off on a floor other than the one at which they were supposed to. 
Or, in the case of a criminal, from escaping (this would have been of little value 
in the above case; it wouldn't be prudent to restrain a criminal toting nitro as the 


t'ltB faniQui cr#arcr af "Dae l^qy^ifl^'' 

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Page 78 


resulting explosion would destroy more than just the elevator). 

A bullet-proof glass panel can slide down in front of the door (much like the 
one Doc Savage employed in The Monsters and many of his adventures). This 
shield saves Benson from being riddled with machine gun slugs in Stockholders 
in Death. Smitty passes his hand over a spot in the wall to lift the panel in The 
Green Killer. 

The top floor of the dingy building is actually three huge rooms merged into 
one. It resembles a combination of lounging room and work shop, sixty by one 

hundred and 

In the 
large round 
room are big 
chairs and a 
near the rear 
Also near the 
from the 
on which 
battery of 
rows of 
Ughts. A 
and soft 
announce the 
the phone. 
The rear 
provide a 
lowroof of a 
garage and 
fronting the 
All the 
are equipped 
appears to be 
angle to let 


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five feet, 
center sits a 
around the 
letter divan 

thirty feet 
door, is The 
big desk, 
rest a 

phones and 
small light 
ringing of 

view of the 
the building 
next street, 
with what 
slanted at a 
in sunlight. 

In reality, these are cast from nickel alloy and are embedded into the masonry to 
deflect bullets. They prove quite effective, though why Benson didn't install 

Page 79 


bullet-proof or 
reflective glass as an 
extra precaution is a 
mystery. Also, the 
room is totally 

television, housed in 
a tall cabinet, squats 
in one comer of the 
room. What appears 
to be a giant canary 
cage, six feet by six 
feet in dimension, 
occupies another. 
Benson uses this to 
imprison a criminal, 
much to the rogue's 
discomfort, in The 
Yellow hoard. It's 
an effective tool for 
prying information 
from unsavory 

Against the east 
wall is a cabinet 
lined with fine guns. 
Hung on another 
wall, myriad types 

of bows and arrows. In The Green Killer a girl grabs one of these weapons and 
tries to impale another guest, who is seemingly the victim of the dreaded 
monkey disease. 

Another ceiling-high cabinet holds a bunch of bottles and vials, which contain 
many of The Avenger's concoctions. 

The second floor houses The Avenger's super laboratory, where he spends 
much of his time inventing gadgets and antidotes to aid in vanquishing crime. 

This floor includes the aides' private quarters, and a suite of guest rooms. In 
The Frosted Death the lovely Miss Sangman stays in the "blue room." A switch 
on The Avenger's desk can actuate a blue light alarm if any guest leaves his or 
her room. 

Page 80 


The second floor corridor ends in what appears to be a soUd brick and plaster 
wall. Appearances can be and are deceiving. "He (The Avenger) pressed a 
certain spot. The end of the hall, five by seven and one-half, moved a little. The 
entire wall was a secret door leading out onto a garage roof." Benson employs 

this exit in The 
to capture two 
lurking outside 

A special 
to the basement, 
Benson s special 

River of Ice 
of vehicles at "a 
By Midnight 
at the end of 
increases to 
and light trucks, 
equipment. A 
by an electric 
door to the 
A basement 
the vacant 
the corner. 
Stockholders in 
passage winds 
tunnel that 
cables and 
The tunnel ends 
opening a block 
away, which 
three-car garage 
belong to the 


Frosted Death 
the complex, 
elevator drops 
where all 
cars are housed, 
puts the number 
dozen or so." 
Murder, unlike 

their number 
over thirty cars 
each with a 
function and 
ramp operated 
eye opens the 

passage leads to 
warehouse at 
According to 
Death, a secret 
to a street 
houses the city's 
steam pipes, 
at a concealed 
and a half 
leads into a 
that appears to 

building next door, but is actually not part of that building's structure. It comes in 
handy in the above-mentioned novel when The Avenger and his aides use it to 
escape the police surrounding Justice headquarters. 

Bleek Street's Justice, Inc. headquarters is a veritable fortress that closely 
parallels Doc's eighty-sixth floor citadel. Yet in its own right, it is unique. It 

Page 81 


never sustains the devastation Doc's does, nor is it the scene of so many 
apocalyptic battles. But it's a special place; a haven for the innocent, a sanctuary 
for the oppressed. Many strategies were plotted there, many crime puzzles 
pieced together. An icy gray glow shines there in the minds of all Avenger fans, 
centering on the top floor room of that dingy building. As with the bronze aura 
illuminating the eight-sixth floor of Doc's abode or the eerie blue sheen 
emanating from The Shadow's sanctum, it always will. 

T6* AvengsTi oJmHp forces a ttfodd^tf^, Vieroirj mtfsUrmSm^^ 




Page 82 



Anyone disappointed in the fact that Doc Savage wasn't firing off as many 
gadgets in the pages of his magazine in the early 40s, must have received at least 
a modicum of satisfaction when The Avenger hit the stands. Benson and his gang 
use them continuously from The Yellow Hoard onward. 

The first of these gadgets is Smitty's television. As the series progresses, 
Smitty tinkers and improves the design. The biggest change occurs in the eerie 

a^^^^^^^^^^^ I case of The Black 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^1 Death. He invents a 
^HH^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^H'i small box 

^^B^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^l attaches to the 

the large set at Bleek 
Street headquarters. 
This enables The 
Avenger to scramble 
transmission to 
discourage uninvited 
viewers. Smitty is 
awaiting transmission 
from Mac when a 
mysterious scene begins 
to emanate from the 

An image 
materializes on the 
grayish glass. It forms 
into the outlines of a 
large cryptlike room 
I with gothic arches and 
walls of heavy stone 
dripping with moisture, 
as if the eerie chamber 
were deep underground. 
Smitty is flabbergasted. 
He says it is a million to 
one shot that anyone 
J else would have another 

1301 a CQVxdt af Dt*5, bvt -t ysuBS. jru^y. of ttttfm, w*s c^jnint into fi*i jeen, 

Page 83 


set as sophisticated (Long Tom Roberts thought so, too, in The Yellow Cloud 
before weird things showed up on his set. Perhaps he could have enUghtened 

In the center of the screen, an image takes shape, a shadowy pair of wings, 
black and foreboding. "It whispered of evil, a horror somehow beyond horror." 

The figure of a man garbed in a black robe, the white outline of wings traced 
on his chest, appears as if from nowhere. Words, sounding like nothing human, 
emanate from the figure. He declares death for another figure that has 
mysteriously appeared 
in the chamber, handing 
the unknown what 
looks to be a piece of 
crumpled black tissue 
paper. The figure taking 
the tissue suddenly 
turns black and the 
image blurs from the 
screen. The Black 
Wings Cult leader has 

Before the events of 
The Black Death 
conclude, even The 
Avenger is condemned 
to death by the 
malevolent potentate 
and receives the black 
orchid of doom. 

In Smitty's 
excitement about this 
invention, however, he 
forgets the keys in the 
ignition of one of The 
Avenger's specially 
designed cars, which is 
promptly purloined by a 
man who was on his way to Justice headquarters to enlist Benson's help. 

All of Benson's cars are bullet-proof and crammed with innumerable gadgets, 
but this vehicle that the unfortunate man steals is his most deadly equipped. The 
man careens through crowded New York streets, bounding over sidewalks and 

Page 84 


injuring scores of 
people. It is a 
miracle no one is 
During the 
escapade, the 
fugitive fiddles 
with buttons 
lining the 
unleashing many 
of The Avenger's 
secret weapons. 

Steel rods 
spring out from 
beneath the car, 
snatching an 
impatient youth 
attempting to 
dodge traffic and 
pinning him to 
the side of the 
car. After being 
hauled on a 
whirlwind ride 
through the city, 
you can bet this 
youth will be a 
hell of a lot more 
cautious crossing 
the street in the 

Another steel 
bar snaps from 
the back, snagging and towing along a parked car. 

In agony, close to death, the half-crazed driver jabs yet another button: 
machine gun slugs spray the sidewalk and splinter windows. Concrete chips and 
glass shards fly. 

At last, it is over. The man dies, a victim of the virulent "Black Death." The 

*'Yff'r& ihr^Utt* thit ittuS wi}} txpiod^^ whb an etcctric 

Page 85 


terror of the careening juggernaut is ended . Nellie blasts Smitty for being stupid 
enough to leave the keys in the car, but Benson does not. It is not his way and 
Smitty feels bad enough. 

By the time of The Sky Walker Benson begins to employ colorless odorless 
knockout gas on criminals. These pellets, invented by Mac, are close cousins to 
Doc's thin-walled globules. 

In The Devil 's Horns Smitty invents a little belt radio no larger than a cigar 
case that is contoured to the waist. Used for communication when danger 
threatens or some new piece of important evidence arises, these ingenious little 

Page 86 


devices function over a distance of forty miles, farther if conditions are right. 

In The Frosted Death Benson designs a tiny pocket microscope, which he 
uses to analyze some of the "Frosted Death" germs. Slightly larger than a 
fountain pen, it has three tiny legs that disengage from the sides to form a tripod. 
It boasts an incredible power of 800 diameters. 

In the same 
novel, taking a 
leaf from Doc 
Savage, Benson 
starts to carry a 
small collapsible 
grapple attached to 
a very thin silk 
line. He keeps it at 
his waist for easy 

This novel 
reveals Benson's 
pockets contain 
enough chemicals 
to stock a 
laboratory. Like 
Doc, he is a 
pharmacy . 

In The Blood 
Ring The Avenger 
and his aides start 
wearing bullet- 
proof underwear 
invented by 
Benson. Called 
celluglass, the 
stuff is stronger 
than spun steel, 
strong enough to 

prevent almost any size slug from penetrating, though the wearer receives a 
nasty bruise and a hell of a jolt. 

Also in this novel, Benson first employs his atomic bombardment cylinder, a 

Page 87 


device ingenious enough to make any professional in the field of science weep 

with envy and awe. This device enables The Avenger to ferret out an explanation 

for the talking mummy at the Braintree Museum. 

In Stockholders in Death Smitty comes up with a radio hook-up system that is 

wired to The Avenger's headquarters through a radio held to a constant 

wavelength. Benson uses it to trick criminals into thinking he is at Bleek Street 

instead of following them. 

In the same 
tale, Mac 
invents a 
chemical so 
volatile it can 
be ignited by a 
candle flame at 
twenty feet. 
He also 
comes up with a 
gas capable of 
all other gases, 
with which The 
Avenger and 
his crew soak 
their coat lapels 
(in Nellie and 
Rosabel's case, 

This yam 
gives us 
Smitty's first 
device for 
telephone calls. 
He improves 
upon this model 
in The Wilder 
The Avenger in this tale attaches a tube to all his cars that is capable of 

expelling a gas bomb. That saves them from having to open the windows when 

iit pi£n, anJ fcj'jB ri^ht ^tM^fifS Wlls&ji'a St^it wrist. 

Page 88 


danger is at 

In The 

Mountain the 
group begins to 
use Uttle nose 
cUps that 
counteract gas, 
most Ukely an 
on the ones 
Mac used to 

contracting the 
Death". In this 
saga, Benson 

drowning when 
trapped in a 
cavern fiUing 
with water by 
instalUng the 

Also in use 
in this tale are 
Mac's new 
tablets that 
light up 
rooms or 

Murder brings 

us special night glasses, invented by Benson, that gather light where none seems 
to exist. 

In The Smiling Dogs Benson uses a tiny blowtorch whose fuel consists of 

Page 89 


several pellets, crushed and moistened, able to produce a terrifically hot blue 
flame. The device resembles a tiny perfume atomizer and saves Justice & Co 
from a particularly sticky situation during the closing pages of this tale. 
In River of Ice it saves Benson and Smitty, who are locked in a freezer stacked 
with dry ice, from sure death. 

In this tale, Benson employs a hypo to squirt an inky liquid in order to escape 


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Page 90 


criminals. The liquid is used again in The Flame Breathers when he is held up 
by a gang in the Utah desert. This time it spurts from a false knot in his tie. 

Murder on Wheels cites a tiny knife that snaps out from Smitty's belt, 
enabling him to slice through the ropes that secure him. 

The same tale informs us that The Avenger has installed a clamp-down arm in 
his cars. With the press of a button, a padded bar snaps across the thighs and 
upper body, preventing the passenger from being thrown from the car or hurt in 
the case of a crash. It saves Benson from being knocked out or injured when the 
Marr supercar smashes into his vehicle head on, spilling it. 

In Three Gold 
Crowns Mac invents a 
gas that can be used to 
extinguish fires. 

In the same tale. 
The Avenger has 
implanted a small wire 
serrated with 
numerous tiny teeth in 
his vest. It is capable 
of sawing through a 
steel bar if given 
enough time. In this 
case, it saves Benson 
from being run over 
by a train after villains 
have tied him to the 

In The Hate Master 
The Avenger invents a 
special steering 
arrangement that 
enables his car to be 
driven from the back 
seat. The trick gives 
crooks some tough 
moments in this 
bloody tale. 

InNevlo, after 
crooks cut through the base of a radio tower Benson has mounted, to send him 




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Page 91 


plunging two-hundred feet to the ground, The Avenger saves himself from 
certain death by engaging a thin, transparent compact parachute that can be 
folded into a size no larger than a cigarette pack. 

In the same tale, he carries a camera no larger than a lady's compact. This he 
uses to snap pictures of the mysterious man-beast, Nevlo. 

Pictures of Death cites a master key arrangement sure to cause locksmiths 
nightmares. It involves a set of blanks of common sizes and shapes that are 
stamped from plastic. This plastic has the consistency of semi-hard rubber and 
retains the shape of any impression made in it. All Benson has to do is thrust a 
key into a lock, twist, then draw the blank out and cut along the dents. 

In The Green Killer Mac invents a gas called the "persuader". It is a form of 
truth gas. Nellie and Smitty use it to question a suspect, but unfortunately for 
Nellie the gas is none too particular whom it affects. After she inhales a whiff, 
Smitty promptly jumps at 
the chance to question her 
if she really had gone 
dancing with Cole at The 
Pink Room. In reality, 
they went to pick up some 
information about 
espionage Cole wanted. 
As one can well predict, 
this provoked a rather 
lengthy and violent 
quarrel between the two. 

Midnight Murder 
boasts a plethora of 
interesting gadgets. The 
most significant is a plane 
of Benson's devising that 
can morph into an 
autogyro. With it they 
land at the scene of a 
plane crash where there is 
scant room. 

Another invention 
from this tale is a signal 
flare disguised as a 
fountain pen, which 
enables Benson to escape 

Page 92 


from crooks after they trap him in a bam. 

Still another is a substance resembling yellow paint. Nellie employs it to track 
criminals to Connecticut. 

Not all the gadgets used in the series were the exclusive property of 
Justice, Inc. Some were used, and used well, by criminals against the team. 

In The Yellow Hoard the chief villain uses tremendously powerful exploding 
peanuts to wreak havoc and destruction on New York City, as well as to bury 
Benson & Co. under tons of rock. Of course they only succeed in bringing the 
mountain down upon themselves. 

In The Sky Walker the criminals obtain a substance that can render planes 

control a 
ray capable of 

In The 

people into 

The main 
little black 
produces a 
whine capable 
its victims. 

In River of 

obtain a cold 
long forgotten 
the mastodon, 
know it 
power of the 
it and once 

The scope 
The Avenger, 
short series. 





They also 



Blood Ring 
gadgetry, a 
gadget in 
Murder is a 
disk that 
of hypnotizing 

Ice the lead 
conspires to 
light material 
in the cave of 
Little do they 
requires the 
glacier to fuel 
removed it is 
of gadgets in 
for such a 
nearly rivals 

Page 93 


that found in the pages of Doc Savage. Certainly, it helps fill the void after Doc 
abolishes (almost) his vice. Although a percentage of the gadgets resemble or 
even copy Doc's, many are unique and fascinating inventions that propel the 
series through countless pages of excitement and great escapes. 

*mH ^V WAI S£fiJ3 

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Page 94 



After The Avenger Magazine faded due to the war paper shortage and sagging 
sales, Richard Henry Benson and Justice, Inc. fans found their hero, pitifully, 
shunted to the back pages of Street & Smith's Clues Detective pulp, plus a one- 
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ I shot stint in the 

I bowels of The 
I Shadow 
Magazine. This 
buried Benson's 

I colorful career 
until Warner 
resurrected him 
in paperback in 
the early 70s. 
These stories are 
drab, mediocre 
and out of 
With this 

I move from his 
own magazine 
came a change in 
authorship that 

contributed to the 
demise of the 
series. Veteran 
pulp writer Emile 
C. Tepperman, 
for his work on 
The Spider and 

I Operator #5, was 
chosen for the 
series, which 

I lasted a mere six 
J installments 


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Page 95 


before The Avenger met his premature end, Uterarily speaking, that is. 

These tales don't even compare to even Ernst's worst outing (generally 
considered to be Midnight Murder, though The Hate Master comes close); 
they're not even in league with Goulart's inferior modem yams. They are wholly 
terrible. The author seemed cramped and had apparently done little research into 
the character — or either just didn't care or was told by editors to change the 
character — ^before undertaking the writing task. 

The first of these short tales. Death to The Avenger, starts off atypically, 
beginning a downhill slide that continues with each succeeding installment. 
Consider the opening line from Death to The Avenger: "The Avenger was on the 
prowl tonight." Benson hunts ace criminal Gregorio Ruiz, who is likewise 
plotting to remove The Avenger from his own path. Benson hatches an elaborate 
plan to grab one of the notorious gangster 's henchmen, creating a false fire 
alarm at the courthouse where the underling is being tried. Though this story 
sticks closest to character, the plot is somewhat off base with the novels. Other 
characters show slight changes in behavior also, especially, Nellie Gray and 
Smitty. Tepperman has an irritating habit of calling Smitty "Algy", which would 
have pleased the giant no end as fond as he was of his given name. 

In the second entry, A Coffin for The Avenger, Benson fights the deadly spy 
calling himself "The Black Tulip," an intimidating moniker if ever there was 
one. This story is a study in minor. Benson seems disposed to showing emotion, 
at times smiling openly. Cole Wilson suddenly understands Hindustani, which 
he supposedly leamed while surveying for the British government five years 
previously in India. For the first time the phone number for Justice, Inc. is given: 
Liberty 1-1111. In a later short, an altemate line of Liberty 2-2222 is cited. 

Vengeance on The Avenger, the third story in Clues, finds Benson light years 
out of character. He smokes, a habit in which he never indulged in the novels, 
and has become progressively more violent. He carries a small pistol in his 
pocket, with which he promptly nails a crook in the heart, killing him instantly. 
Gone are the no-life-taking policy and head creases. Mike and Ike have been 
retired. Also gone are the trademark manipulative endings. 

Calling Justice, Inc. is one of the better shorts with a good build-up that the 
author throws away when the ending slams to an abmpt halt. Nellie has aubum 
hair, now; Smitty and Benson tote .45s like The Shadow. Nellie, reminiscent of 
Nita Van Sloan, gets tortured for the first time. 

Cargo of Doom finds The Avenger in another spy story, in which Benson 
again shoots a crook between the eyes instead of creasing him. 

In the last Avenger story. To Find a Dead Man, which appears in the back of 
The Shadow Magazine, Benson completely disintegrates a crook's face with a 
gun blast. Tepperman seemed bent of stripping The Avenger of his last 

Page 96 


remaining unique qualities and reducing him to just another violent crime- 
stopper. Only the names are the same. 

Granted these stories are too short to properly develop The Avenger persona, 
but few, if any, of Ernst's ideas and innovations survive into these entries, and it 
appears the author didn't even bother to try. 

Tepperman, at best, seemed ill-at-ease with the writing form. After fashioning 
a decent beginning, he would end in a distinctly anti-climactic manner. Perhaps 
he would have been more at home in a longer format, but wherever the blame 
lies, these entries certainly suffered. 

Josh and Rosabel never appear in the shorts, neither does Fergus MacMurdie. 
Cole Wilson gets on stage once, but briefly. These stories resemble more The 
Spider, violent and more emotional, lacking the frosty sparkle of Ernst's work. 

These tales are hard for any Avenger fan to enjoy at all, even when taken as 
separate entities from the novels. A few good moments shine through, few and 
far between. Benson's fake fire scene is well-conceived and executed in the first 
story. The Black Tulip had his moments and given more space and a better 
name, who knows? Vengeance on The Avenger has an interesting story line 
involving a crook s lust to get even with Benson after, though the time frame can 
be argued. The Avenger let him off the hook ten years earlier. 

Whatever the case, they are an addendum to The Avenger legacy and if you 
are a completist of Avenger material, you will want to acquire copies of these 
adventures. Tepperman may have been a good pulp writer, but he was a poor fit 
for this series. Too bad Paul Ernst couldn't have done them; they may have 
continued much longer. 


In Clues: 

Death to The Avenger 
Coffin for The Avenger 
Vengeance on The Avenger 
Calling Justice, Inc. 
Cargo of Doom 

In The Shadow: 

To Find a Dead Man 

Thanks to Rick Lai for providing copies of these Avenger shorts... 

Page 97 



The early 70s saw the inception 
of some of the great pulp heroes 
into comic book form. It met with, 
unfortunately, little success, at least 
as far as monetary gain for the 
publishers was concerned. Doc 
Savage less than set the world on 
fire in a color version over at 
Marvel, while DC issued a fair 
adaptation of The Shadow. 

It was in this Shadow adaptation 
DC sought to bring another great 
pulp figure into their fold, that of 
the icy-eyed man-machine. The 

In the meantime Doc grabbed 
his bronze suitcase and checked out 
of the Marvel Hotel after a paltry 
eight issues. He checked back in for 
a short stint in black and white (as 
well as two minor appearances with 
Spiderman and the Thing), again 
for eight issues. The Shadow, 
perhaps the best adaptation of the 
three, loaded up his .45s and, pardon the pun, booked after twelve issues. 

So what of Richard Henry Benson? Well, he didn't even last that long — a 
scant four issues to be exact, as if the ratio of running time in the original pulp 
was mathematically proportionate to the running time in the comic. 

Justice, Inc., as the comic was titled, was in the opinion of most the poorest of 
the comic versions. However, the ill-fated magazine had its good points (which 
cannot be said of later DC abortions). 

First, it gave Avenger fans a chance to see their hero in living white. Smitty 
was there, as moon- faced and powerful as ever; Mac, too, though introduced in a 
different fashion than in the pulp, r's trilling, bone-mallet fists flying. Even Josh 
and Rosabel showed up for the party. Too bad the coach turned into a lemon at 

Page 98 



The first issue really wasn't that bad, albeit a bit cramped. Two issues would 
have been better, three more like it, but DC probably shied away from this 
because of the trouble at the Marvel Hotel with two-part adaptations for Doc. 

Number 1 
was, as the 
book's title 
indicated, an 
adaptation of 
Justice, Inc., 
the pulp 
novel. It stays 
fairly close, 
though Mac 
is notably 
absent from 
the book. The 
done by Al 
is nice 
the issue. The 
cover, by Joe 
Kubert, is 
passable. The 
back of the 
book features 
a brief article 
on The 
Avenger by 

Number 2 
is an 

adaptation of 

The Sky Walker. Already, the magazine begins to slip. Veteran artist Jack Kirby 
takes over the art chores, cover and interior. I have never liked his work and 
cared for it even less on The Avenger. The adaptation is fair at best. Josh and 

Thu$ fcT WA$ WITH P/CK Ba^soN^., 

A MAfi rf^fiH^fORfA^^ IHIO A RtSURE 
OF /C^ ANt? 0r££l ...MOI^B pmLBes 

Page 99 


Rosabel are introduced, as in the original, but something is missing. A big 
something (or little, depending on how you look at it); namely, the skipping of 
The Yellow Hoard, thereby bypassing The Avenger's secret cache of Aztec gold 

Page 100 


and, most importantly, the blonde bombshell, Nellie Gray. Justice, Inc. without 
Nellie is like TV without a picture tube. The back of the issue contains another 

article by 

this time on 
Justice, Inc. 
in the 
unlike the 
Doc movie 

3, The 
Bug, sees 
the slip 
become a 
plunge. To 
Mac, an 
story is 
penned for 
the comic. It 
features the 
return of 
Sodom, who 

appeared in 
The Shadow 
comic only 
to be 
defeated by 

Page 101 


the Master of Darkness. Sodom has obtained a drug that transforms men into 
dribbUng monsters. He sprays this drug on Mac's family because he wants Mac 
to teach him to make more of it, which I suppose is as good a reason as any. The 
Avenger bursts in and tries to help, but cannot prevent the death of Mac's wife. 

Mac, predictably, joins forces with Justice, Inc. and eventually they turn 
Sodom's own device against him (as was the tradition in the pulp series), 

finishing off the 

evil doctor for 
good. The back of 
the issue carries 
the first letter 

The fourth and 
final Avenger 
comic "epic". Slay 
Ride in the Sky, 
starts off with 
another cover by 
Kubert. Interior 
art is still by 
Kirby. The tale 
isn't bad. It 


concerns an 
insurance rip-off 
scheme involving 
seagulls that take 
down planes, and 
ends with a 
battle, which turns 
to flames as some 
of the little 
buggers explode 
against it. The 
yam is more in 
line with the pulp 
version, but still 
no Nellie! 

Then, it's over; 

Page 102 


The Avenger comics are no more. An 
unfitting end for the man of ice. Or is 

Upon closer look, these four exploits in 
The Avenger legacy reveal that they 
aren't all bad. True, they could have been 
longer and better drawn, but the stories 
are definitely better than the Tepperman 
shorts. At least we get a brief look at the 
man with the glacial eyes in the comics 
medium. Maybe the tastes of most comic 
collectors and readers just weren't ready 
for pulp heroes. Whatever the case, most 
Benson fans will want to get a look at 
them. The Avenger also appears in 
comics form once more, in the eleventh 
issue of The Shadow comic, which is a 


DOC SAVAGE... "g^- 


pretty good, if cramped, tale involving 
the two crime-fighters against Shiwan 


Since this article's publication. The 
Avenger (more or less — mostly less) 
reappeared in DC Comics, again in 
issues of their modem version of The 
Shadow. The character was almost 
unrecognizable. Then, in 1989, 
Benson, or what was left of him, got 
his own two-issue mini-series. The 
artwork looked as though somebody 
puked watercolors. The story line was 
garbage. Even an Avenger completist 
would be advised to skip them. 

Page 103 



Most pulp fans know that between 1945 and 1946 The Avenger was the hero 
of a radio show. But in those 26 episodes, The Avenger was not Richard Benson. 
Instead he was Jim Brandon, a famous biochemist, whose twin inventions — the 
telepathic indicator and secret diffusion capsule — made him into a sort of 
second-rate version of The Shadow. 

However, Richard Benson — The Avenger — and three other members of 
Justice, Inc. — Smitty, Mac and Nellie — also made it onto the airwaves. In 
episodes adapted from the novels by Paul Ernst, as well as some original 

episodes. The 
Avenger starred on 
radio during the 
I same period that he 
was appearing in 
his own Street & 
Smith magazine. 
Unfortunately, not 
much is known 
about this radio 
series. None of the 
recordings seem to 
have survived, and I 
haven't found any 
mention of it in any 
books on old time 

According to the 
radio listings in the 
New York Times for 
1941-42, the first 
Avenger radio show 
ran for 62 weeks. 
This probably 
represents a full 
season of 26 half- 
hour episodes, 
followed by 36 

Page 1 04 


weeks of reruns. Unfortunately, the titles — let alone the scripts — for most of 
these episodes are lost. The series first aired on July 18, 1941 over station WHN 
in New York City, and broadcast for the final time on November 3, 1942 (you 
may notice this doesn't equal 62 weeks — the show missed seven weeks spread 
throughout this period due to various sporting events). For the first seven weeks. 

Page 105 


the show aired on Fridays from 9-9:30 pm; thereafter, the show was heard on 
Tuesdays, with the time changing every few months. Episode titles which are 
known are as follows: 

Week 2—7/25/41 The Hate Master 
Week 3—8/1/41 Tear Drop Tank 
Week 5—8/15/41 River of Ice 
Week 6—8/22/41 Three Gold Crowns 
Week 7—8/29/41 Blood Ring 
Week 8—9/2/41 The Devil's Horns 
Week 9—9/9/41 The Avenger 

Concerning the two episodes listed whose titles are not taken from a novel: Tear 
Drop Tank seems to be an "^^ 

. . 1 1 1 . rTT7 A TUNBD FOB HinSDEB 

origmal episode, but The Avenger 
is an adaptation of The Yellow 
Hoard. Considering that by the | 
time the 26th episode was aired 
on January 6, 1942 (presumably 
the last episode before reruns), 
only 20 Avenger novels had been 
published, it's obvious that many 
of the episodes must have 
featured The Avenger in all new 
adventures. The only scripts 
which seem to have survived are 
the seven whose titles are given 
on the list. 

It's anybody's guess as to I 

whom was behind the series. i 

Unfortunately, none of the extant 
scripts contain a list of the cast or 
production crew. All that can be 
said for sure is that the author of 
the final four scripts that survive 
was Maurice Joachim, as he is 
actually credited at their close. 
No author is given for the first j 
three surviving scripts, but the 1 

Page 1 06 


writing style is so different that it is likely they were the work of at least two 
other individuals, who identities may never be known. 

While The Avenger was a presentation of WHN, it aired on a number of other 
stations as well. One of the scripts, The DeviVs Horns, contains not only the 
normal closing, but also a "special closing for the recording," which omits 
mention of WHN. The attached copy is from the pages of The Black Death (May 


'Smitjty Mfl[jj»*dH ffaiitr*i[J ^jt #jp tiglit "er tta ifgs 

Page 107 



"The Avenger continues on the air, over Station WHN in New York City, and 
quite a few other stations. More and more stations are requesting the program, 

and we hope, 
very soon, to 
give you a Ust 
that will be 
nationwide. In 
the meantime, 
if there's a 
I station that 
you'd like to 
have get the 
program, tell 
us. We'll do 
our best to 
book The 
Avenger in 
I your locality so 
] you can all 
enjoy these 
fine dramas." 

(Editor's Note: 
All the above 
listed scripts 
have been 
reprinted in 
Doug Ellis's 
excellent pulp 
journal. Pulp 
Vault. These 
are a must for 
Benson fans, as 
one of the titles 
. — ,; , is an original 

jAd bm^ti iwttt ft 4it^a^ wi^ ud ^ff«f t* ihi ^dr. I Avenger story.) 

Page 108 




My first experience with 
Avenger covers came via the 
paperbacks pubUshed by Warner 
Paperback Library. These, in my 
opinion, were minor masterpieces. 
At the time — I was twelve, I 
think — I didn't even know these 
exciting tales came from the pulps, 
let alone had cover art. In fact, I 
didn't know what a pulp was, nor 
was I aware that the Kenneth 
Robeson house name didn't belong 
to the same author who wrote Doc 
Savage — the reason I began reading 
The Avenger in the first place. 
Anyway, years later, after I had 
I been edified by numerous pulp 
fanzines and books on the subject 
of those crumbling pages and their 
lustrous pulp prose, I attended my 
first pulpcon and saw for the first 
time a number of The Avenger pulp 
covers (Now, of course, through the 
miracle/curse of the Internet, they 
are available out there for all to see, 
or simply flip through the electronic 
pages of this book). 
I have to admit, weaned on the gorgeous paperback paintings (more on these 
later), I really didn't care for the pulp covers entirely. At least past the early few, 
which had a certain transcending majesty to them. They were mostly drab, 
uninteresting, expressing none of the power and composition of the paperbacks 
paintings by Peter Caras and George Gross. Gems? Hardly. More like coal or 

However, in retrospect, I have mellowed. Scanning the covers I now see more 
to them, perhaps a sapphire here, a ruby there. Some of those mid-range covers, 
though — ^past Murder On Wheels and basically until the end of the series — still 

Page 109 


leave me as cold 
as a naked 

The initial 
covers are quite 
lovely. Justice, 
Inc. is striking 
and icy, like a 
polar dawn — to 
swipe a phrase — 
a perfect 
in most respects 
for the novel 
within. The 
Avenger brims 
with power — 
over evil, crooks 
and probably 
even Walmart, 
had it existed at 
the time. That 
looming frozen 
face, those 
merciless, frosty 
eyes... As with 
the lead novel 
itself, something 

about it rises 

above the medium in which it appears. 

The following cover for The Yellow Hoard comes close, exhibiting snap and 
intensity, and even The Sky Walker crackles with raw strength. 

The Devil's Horns and The Frosted Death lose a little something, likely 
because the glacial visage of Benson becomes somewhat transparent, as if he is 
fading into the background more than reigning over it. On The Blood Ring it 
nearly disappears, and, interestingly enough, Smitty is still portrayed as a black 
man — he was originally supposed to be, as attested to by numerous interior 
illustrations in the premier novel, but by this time Josh and Rosabel Newton had 
been added, so I wonder if the cover artist got the memo. Perhaps the covers 

Page 110 


were painted too far in advance to 
reflect the change, though obviously 
covers beyond Murder on Wheels 
could not have been, since they 
reflected the change in Benson's hair 
color. Whatever the reason, readers 
must have wondered. 

With later covers sapphires and 
rubies appear more like jade and 
quartz. After Murder on Wheels — a 
cover that sizzles with electricity and 
is atypical of the series — the artwork 
grows rather vapid, much akin to 
some of the Doc Savage cover art at 
the time (some might say The 
Shadow, too, though I consider these 
somewhat better). They mostly stay 
that way until the end of the run, 
though The Black Death reverts to 
the looming portrait of Benson and is 
a big improvement. Midnight 
Murder, the final Avenger novel of 
the forties, is disappointing and 
lackluster, representative of the 
artwork prevalent on most hero pulps 
of the time. 

Yet even while the early covers display solid work, composition, scope, and 
sense of cold power, it is in the Warner Paperback Library paperback reissue 
where the Man of Ice reaches the pinnacle of his painted greatness. 

These covers are glorious. The first cover is reminiscent of the first Doc 
Savage reprint. The Man of Bronze, by Bama. Peter Caras rendered The Avenger 
in ice and blue, have merged with cerulean shadow. Remote, entirely powerful, 
it is a masterpiece of coverwork. Caras remained with the series through book 
eight. The Glass Mountain. His best work was probably on the second book. The 
Yellow Hoard and book six. The Blood Ring. His painting for The Sky Walker, an 
uninteresting and drab study in yellowish tones, was probably his poorest. 

With book nine. Tuned for Murder, George Gross takes over the artistic 
chores and remains with the series until the end. His covers seem to improve 
with every outing. Tuned for Murder is somewhat bland in concept and the next. 

Page 111 


The Smiling Dogs, is in the same ballpark. But with book eleven, River of Ice, 
Gross renders a stunning and icy classic. Notable after that is the eerie gray- 
toned House of Death and emerald-hued The Green Killer. 

It is with the twenty-fifth book, The Man from Atlantis, Gross really hits his 
stride. Nearly all covers from this point on are brilliant, from the symbolic. 

Page 112 



blood-dripping clock of 
Dr. Time to the intense 
blues of The Glass 
Man. In fact, the covers 
outshine the weaker 
Goulart stories by far. 
No doubt these covers 
contributed not a little 
to the hugely successful 
paperback run, though, 
alas, they couldn't save 
it after Warner made a 
poor choice in authors 
to continue the tales. 
It's a pity; one can only 
dream of what 
marvelous paintings 
might have come from 
Gross's brush. 

Most Doc Savage 
and Avenger fans know 
the same model was 
used for both series, an 
expert poser by the 
name of Steve Holland. 
A close look at the 
books of both 
characters reveals 
Holland's facial 
structure and trademark 
poses (Gross did veer 
from Holland's looks on 
The Death Machine, 

where Benson somewhat resembles Robert Conrad, so perhaps he worked from 

memory or used another model for that cover.) 

These covers, pulp and paperback, have been reproduced in their entirety 

throughout the pages of this book for fans to enjoy. Few series characters equal 

them (Doc Savage and The Shadow paperbacks being among the elite). Perhaps 

one day there will be more. 

Page 113 




Even as a kid with no 
knowledge of just how 
many original Avenger 
novels there were, I knew 
something was different 
the night I bugged my 
mother to drive me to the 
local Mall to pick up the 
latest adventure of 
Benson & Co. The novels 
came out like clockwork; 
I knew a new one would 
be there. I wasn't 
disappointed. At least 
until I got it home and 
started reading it. 

The book was number 
twenty- five, The Man 
from Atlantis. The cover 
was brilliant, maybe the 
best in the series. The 
concept reminded me 
much of Doc Savage's 
Devil on the Moon. All 
the ingredients were 
there — except for one: the 
author had changed and I 
didn't know it. I suspected 
something was different 
the moment I started 
reading it. It just felt 
different. Characters 
weren't acting quite right, scenes weren't as vivid, the plot wasn't as structured 
and intricate. And it was shorter. Much shorter. Almost as if it were an outline of 
an adventured instead of the real thing. At that young age, I still enjoyed the 

Page 114 





book to an extent, but it left me wanting, unsatisfied, in a way none of the 
previous twenty-four novels, even the weaker ones, ever had. Sort of like biting 
into a low-fat donut. 

More followed. I still made my monthly trek to the Mall, grabbing the latest 
book. The covers were all superb, the titles inviting, evocative, the blurbs 
promising. The stories promised grand adventure. Flying saucers whisked 
through the desert skies; Cartoon superheroes sprang to life, running amok; an 

evil mastermind sent 
victims on trips through 
time; the Devil terrorized 
a small Massachusetts 
town; a vampire stalked 
the steamy streets of a 
South American town; an 
invisible man raised 
havoc in the West; a 
machine drove innocent 
victims to suicide. 

But the tales never 
quite lived up to the 
expectation, to what had 
gone before. 

With book number 
thirty-six, novels were no 
more. With Demon 
Island The Avenger 
faded into history for a 
second time. 

It took me years to 
learn the name of the 
author behind the final 
twelve books, and it was 
a surprise when it came. 
Ron Goulart. Author of 
many excellent science 
fiction novels, or so I am 
told. I don't know. I have 
never had the desire to 
read one after sampling 


Page 115 


his work on The Avenger. Maybe I'm a little bitter. Maybe I feel Benson 
deserved better. Whatever the case, the series suffered under his watch. 

Goulart proved entirely wrong for this series. The stories themselves are 
minor, the plots pedestrian, never fully realized. Far too many involved spies and 
poorly integrated gimmicks. Gone were the manipulative endings The Avenger 
was so famous for. Added was a degree of silliness that might only have 
appealed to ten-year-old readers (Smitty listens to soap operas, has daffy 
relatives and The Avenger buys teddy bears). Characters step out of their 
familiar roles. Smitty and Mac's feud deflates like a souffle after an oven door 
slam. Cole turns into a wise-cracking joy boy and, worse, becomes the focus of 
the books. Benson himself seems secondary, sapped of any menace or power. 
Josh and Rosabel get nearly no action, especially the latter, who becomes 

What caused this? What exactly went wrong? Why did an experienced author 
seem so clumsy with the reins? I wish I knew. According to Will Murray in his 
article Origin of an Avenger, Goulart cared for The Avenger character even less 
than Ernst, though Ernst brought much more skill and sophistication to the tales. 
If that's true, however, why leave a maddening hook at the end of the Demon 
Island in an attempt to secure its continuance? Goulart also disliked Ernst's style 
on the series, though it was far superior to the comic book toned one he used 
(supposedly intended to be more like Dent's Doc Savage style but it doesn't 
even come close). 

It's obvious Goulart did little research on the series. It's hard to believe he 
read many, if any, of the books and his disdain for pulp fiction has been alluded 
to in quotes from him in various interviews. He obviously preferred Cole 
Wilson, but even there he had little grasp of Wilson's character as set down by 
Ernst. The plots monkey Doc Savage more than The Avenger, but even there 
they are poor attempts. No complaint on the titles, or even ideas, but the 
execution was lacking, the spirit exorcised. The books have a deadening 
sameness to them, though an occasional innovation sparks and fizzles. If he is 
responsible for one exemplary contribution to the series, surely it is his villain. 
The Iron Skull, in the novel of the same name. The potential there was vast, 
especially in light of the fact that if The Avenger series had a major failing it was 
the lack of a truly outstanding adversary. Credit where credit is due. 

In some peculiar way, I can enjoy these novels, though most Avenger fans 
cannot. Mostly it's nostalgia for that long-ago time as kid I waited with bated 
breath for each new adventure, plus the brilliant Gross covers that evoke warm 
memories. It's a shame they will never be more than that, and a bigger shame 
they signaled the death knell for the series. 

Page 116 



9/39 Justice, Inc.: Millionaire 
adventurer Richard Henry 
Benson, on a plane bound for 
Montreal, returns from the 
lavoratory to find his wife 
and daughter have 
mysteriously vanished. None 
of the other passengers will 
admit to having seen them. 
Shock drives Benson 
temporarily insane and when 
he awakens in a hospital 
room three weeks later, his 
hair has turned snow white 
and his face has become 
paralyzed. He vows to 
destroy the ring that killed his 
family. Along the way he 
picks up two aides to help 
him fight crime as Justice, 

10/39 The Yellow Hoard: A 

mysterious trail of Mexican 

clay bricks and exploding 

"peanuts" surround the death 

of a kindly old archeology 

professor by criminals. A 

priceless gold and emerald 

belt leads Benson deep into 

the Mexican jungle in search of a fabulous lost treasure of the Aztecs. Nellie 

Gray joins the cast of troubleshooters. 

11/39 The Sky Walker: A mysterious droning emanates from the sky. A man is 
spotted walking across the heavens. Buildings crumble and collapse like 
matchsticks. Josh and Rosabel join up with Justice, Inc., solidifying the group 
for the first twelve issues. 

Page 117 


12/39 The DevWs Horns: Benson travels to Ashton City to wipe out a crime 
ring and find an answer to the mystery of the "Devil's Horns." 

1/40 The Frosted Death: A deadly plague erupts in New York City, threatening 
to envelop the entire country with a smothering white mold that resembles frost. 

2/40 The Blood Ring: Ancient Egyptian priests roam the streets of Washington, 
D. C. A sacred ring, pale red until dipped in human blood, spawns a 600-year- 
old curse that appears to 
bring the dead back to 



3/40 Stockholders in 
Death: Missing 
securities lead to 
murder and mayhem in 
the business world. The 
Avenger fights for his 
life as two gangs try to 
destroy him and gain 
control of millions. 

4/40 The Glass 
Mountain: An Indian 
rain god is loose on 
an engineering 
project. A misty 
cloud filled with 
deadly lightning bolts 
terrorizes the crew. 

5/40 Tuned for 
Murder: A high-pitched 
whine and a howling 
dog are the only clues to 
malady that turns men 
into robots. A secret 
new military weapon 
holds the answer to a 
terrible mystery. 

Page 118 


6/40 The Smiling Dogs: A little red man leading a green dashound ties in 
with a sanity test bill — and murder. 

7/40 River of Ice: From the bowels of an ancient glacier spring the relics of a 
long forgotten civilization. An ancient manuscript describes an operation that 
transforms men in automatons. 

Page 119 




9/40 The Flame Breathers: Three scientists die horribly, exhaUng streams of 
flame. A fantastic new fuel powers cars and planes to incredible speeds. 

11/40 Murder on Wheels: A fantastic new supercar falls into the hands of 

criminals. The Avenger 

faces the deadliest test of 

his career as he is 

transformed back into 

Richard Henry Benson. 

Cole Wilson becomes the 

final member to join the 


1/41 Three Gold 
Crowns: Three gold 
crowns and a dentist's 
forceps are the only clues 
to a grisly murder on the 
railroad tracks. 

3/41 House of Death: 

Terror, hidden in a set of 
gold medallions, 
threatens one of the most 
powerful families in 
America. The Avenger 
and his crew travel to a 
mysterious island off the 
Maine coast and find 
themselves trapped in the 
"House of Death." 

5/41 The Hate Master: A 

serum drives animals and 

men insane with hate. A 

twisted dwarf climbing 

his way to the presidency 

wages an all out war with the forces of Justice, Inc. 

7/41 Nevlo: A terrifying force stops all power, even cars and planes. A 
gorillalike creature with superhuman strength stalks the countryside. 

Page 120 


9/41 Death in Slow Motion: A horrible disease causes workers in the nation's 
rubber factories to slow down, then die. Before long, the disease spreads, 
threatening to sabotage the war effort. The Avenger must find a cure before the 
dreaded malady kills two of his aides. 

Page 121 


11/41 Pictures of Death: 

Stolen art is smuggled 
into the country with 
hidden messages 
intended to bring 
disaster to the nation's 
defense plans. 

1/42 The Green Killer: 

A deadly malady turns 
men into apelike 
creatures. The Avenger 
must find a cure for the 
disease and stop a gang 
of cutthroats from 
finding a fortune in 
priceless emeralds in the 
steamy Brazilian jungle. 

3/42 The Happy 
Killers: A formula 
turns gangsters into 
superhuman maniacal 

5/42 The Black Death: 

The Black Wings Cult 
leader forecasts death 
and all who fall under 
his curse die horribly, 
their bodies turning 

7/42 The Wilder Curse: 

A scuffling sound then gruesome horrible death point to a man long dead. 

9/42 Midnight Murder: A plane carrying a secret military weapon crashes, 
killing all aboard. The Avenger races a gang of foreign spies to find the device. 

6/74 The Man From Atlantis: A dying green man collapses in the street, 
clutching a gold medallion that appears to have come from the fabled sunken 
city of Atlantis. 

Page 122 


1114 Red Moon: A 

series of bloody 
killings point to a 
werewolf. Terror 
surrounds a 
government research 

^114 The Purple 
Zombie: Terror and 
the living dead stalk 
the set of a new 
movie. Spies seek to 
control the force that 
can resurrect the 

9/74 Dr. Time: Four 
men suddenly find 
journeying back in 
time. A kidnaper 
claims to hold their 
families captive in 
another era. 

10/74 The 
Nightwitch Devil: In 

the spooky old town 
of Nightwitch, Mac 
encounters devil 
worshippers and 
black magic. A spy 
ring thrives in an 

11/74 Black Chariots: Strange dislike objects glide through the night sky over 
the California desert, terrorizing planes. 

12/74 The Cartoon Crimes : Cartoon characters seem to be suddenly springing 

Page 123 


to life. Wonderman flies through the night. 

1/75 The Death Machine: A mysterious machine controls men's minds, 
causing them to commit suicide. 

2/75 The Flame Countess: A wave of gruesome murders in South America 
seems to be the work of a vampire. 

3/75 The Glass Man: Murders are being committed by what appears to be an 
invisible man. These are tied in with the vanishing of an eminent scientist and 

Page 124 


the activities of a Nazi spy ring. 

4/75 The Iron Skull: A superhuman criminal — part man, part machine — seeks 
to destroy Justice, Inc. and control the New York underworld. 

5/75 Demon Island: Terror and ghosts haunt a movie set on an island off the 
California coast. A fortune in stolen loot lies buried in the midst of the eerie 

Page 125 



The Avenger Novels by Paul Ernst 

Published Title 

Justice, Inc. 
The Yellow Hoard 
The Sky Walker 
The Devil's Horns 
The Frosted Death 
Tuned for Murder 
The Glass Mountain 
The Flame Breathers 
The Blood Ring 
Stockholders in Death 
The Smiling Dogs 
The River of Ice 

House of Death 
Death in Slow Motion 
Murder on Wheels 
The Three Gold Crowns 
The Hate Master 
Pictures of Death 
The Green Killer 
The Happy Killers 
The Black Death 
The Wilder Curse 
Midnight Murder 

In Clues Detective 

Death to the Avenger 
A Coffin for The Avenger 
Vengeance on The Avenger 
Calling Justice, Inc.! 
Cargo of Doom 


























by Emile C. Tepperman 



Original Title 


The Avenger 





Frosted Death 







Case of the Smiling Dog 


River of Ice 


The World-Shaker 


The House of Hate 


Murder in Slow Motion 





Red as in Ruin 



The Laughing Killers 



The Thornton Heights Murders 


The Remote Control Murders 





The Zaharoff Treasure 


Cargo of Doomed Men 


In The Shadow 

To Find a Dead Man 



In Warner Paperback Library By Ron Goulart 

The Man from Atlantis 
Red Moon 
The Purple Zombie 
Dr. Time 

The Nightwitch Devil 
Black Chariots 
The Cartoon Crimes 
The Death Machine 
The Blood Countess 
The Glass Man 
The Iron Skull 
Demon Island 













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